Some people in the world are born huggers who enthusiastically embrace everyone from old friends to new acquaintances and the occasional stranger on the street. I however am not one of those people preferring a firm handshake; smile and head nod, or on rare occasions a chest bump. When encountering a hugger my embrace is usually the awkward handshake/hug; the kind where you try to escape the uncomfortable situation by throwing out your hand but then they get that “nothing doing mister” look in their eyes followed by a massive hug.
In recent months however I have found myself becoming a hugger, which is surprising to some people. Yesterday an old friend came to visit at Church and following the service I gave him a handshake followed by a pretty un-awkward hug (its a work in progress). He responded to this by looking at me and saying “you’re a hugger now!” Actually I wouldn’t call myself a “hugger” at this point since they are reserved for special occasions. It’s usually preceded by the words “I would like to give you a hug” so the person won’t die of shock and followed by loud sirens and balloons falling from the ceiling while everyone puts on their party hats and the marching band comes through.
What has brought me from approaching hugs with the same face I used while eating lima beans as a kid to enjoying them? The people of Cornerstone Baptist Church are truly my family. Now we use the phrase “Church family” a lot in ministry and this is absolutely Biblical since all Believers are part of the body of Christ, but it means more to me since my family is actually in the United States. And as my source of community I spend massive amounts of time with my Church family each week.
Last year a typical week with them would include Basketball on Tuesday night, prayer meeting on Wednesday, Bible Study on Thursday, going to a rugby game over the weekend, and board game night on Sunday. All of this time together has helped us develop something deeper than the “hey man how’s it going” relationship. It became the kind of relationship filled with inside jokes, conversations starting with “remember the time when” and ending with hysterical laughter, the kind where everyone has a nickname that fits perfectly with their personality, and yes one that includes a hug now and then.
I was reminded yesterday of just how important my Church family is to me after being away for two weeks speaking at other Churches. After the service we had a lunch that shockingly didn’t have any authentic southern food (a bucket of KFC) but was filled with awesome fellowship. During the meal friends made fun of my southern words, refusal to embrace the metric system by using Kilometers instead of Miles, my accent, pronouncing the word pie as a two-syllable word, and exactly what makes Apple pie American (isn’t it British?). In short they treated me like family and I loved every moment of it….think next week I will give them all a hug.