I am not a public huggy guy. Too angular. Too needly. Too fidgety.
People have made fun of me for my huglessness. Laughed at me. And laughed with me. But I’m ok with that.
Oh I hug a few people at church – male and female – but those are usually very long term relationships and among family groupings.
Not that I mind it when others hug at church. Some people are just more expressive, and as long as they’ve got permission to hug the other person, that’s completely fine with me. There are lots of huggers at our church and I love “working the room” at the end of our gatherings and seeing the different ways that people express good friendship intimacy with each other. There’s a joy to it.
But I am not huggy guy.
However I gotta say that when this COVID-19 thing is well and truly over and we have that first meeting together at the building we use for church gatherings, there’s gonna be “a whole lotta hug” (thank you Led Zeppelin).
I can sense it. I can sense people feel the lack of the body parts being together in one place, singing, hearing the Word, praying, praising, breaking the communion bread weekly (yep I miss that too, especially since it is weekly for our crew).
Sure this technology this is ok. My crummy Youtube sermon on Sunday. The WhatsApp groups we have put together for everyone. The Facebook page which is kicking into overtime. And that email that we thought was ubiquitous before? Overloaded!
And of course there’s Zoom. Flattened versions of ourselves that betray the fact that excarnation is a curse and that incarnation is our blessed hope in the resurrection.
A pang of sadness swept over me today when I thought about the lack of God’s people being together. First, a single colleague who lives alone declared on Zoom just how much she is missing other people. Gagging for human contact in her home, or their homes.
There are four of us at home, and I get to be with my Jill more than I have in recent years, and I am loving it. The kids have their moments. I tell people I am an introvert, and I am. But put me in my colleague’s position, and I’m not so sure. For both Jill, and my son Declan, touch is a crucial aspect of life, so its hugs all day at the moment!
In fact, Jill and I hug a lot at church. To the point people have come up and asked us if everything is okay! I kinda feel I should go up to couples who never touch each other at church and ask them if everything is okay. 🙂
And then there’s Lore Wilbert’s excellent book that I am reading – Handle With Care: how Jesus redeems the power of touch in life and ministry.
A book all about touch in this time where even the faux intimacy of an elbow handshake is increasingly rare, and deliciously illicit.
I feel at the moment that I am reading about summer in winter. Poring over a description of sunrise in the dark. Tucking into a travel diary whilst on the train to work on a wet Tuesday morning. Oh the pang of the loss of touch! I’m making it worse for myself! Even for a non-hugging, hand-shake kinda guy such as I.
Lore recalls the capital “I” Incarnation time and time again in this book, just to remind us that the God we worship was not too proud to wear our skin. And not too proud to touch the skin of others either, even those – especially those – who others consider untouchable.
And as I sit writing this I am reminded of the single people in our own church, and the elderly whose circle of ‘touchables” had either narrowed or disappeared. The people for whom Sunday was a place for healing touches. And I remember, with joy, the younger people in our gathering who always went out of their way to speak to, sit with and even touch those who would have less touch than most during the week.
Lore makes this point:
Our entire faith hinges on the fact that Jesus came in a body and died in a body and was raised in a body.
No wonder we are missing the body of Christ that is made up of the bodies of Christians. It’s incarnation all the way down baby!
And incarnation all the way up.
At this very moment there is a resurrected human man – embodied – sitting on the throne of heaven who will one day raise our mortal bodies, and will then touch them! Imagine our resurrected and glorified bodies being hugged by the resurrected and glorified Jesus!
Until then, we yearn for touch in a broken COVID-19 world.
I remember the last time I touched my father. Touched him while he was alive, that is. I said “Goodbye” to him, tearfully as I left the room, not knowing if I would see him again.
I gently brushed his warm, soft peach-fuzz earlobe, so different to the papery, ravaged rest of him lying there panting his last days-worth of breath. The next day he was dead and that same earlobe felt like cold wax. He was gone. Even while his body lay there.
There was a churlish article in the Sydney Morning Herald from the churlish Peter Fitzsimons, once again scorning religion in general, and Christianity in particular. This virus is the death knell of religion he snorted.
Oh really Fitz? Oh really? Well, a whole bunch of us are gagging to be together again. For so many of us who belong to the body of Christ that meets in our locale, this not the death knell at all, but the reminder of the life to come. It’s reminder that death itself will one day bow down to the One who we are told “will wipe every tear from our eyes.”
And no social distancing. Ever. Again.