Have you hugged your kids today?

WE all long for affection. A daily hug would make any of us feel more appreciated. If family members expressed more affection toward one another, wouldn't that help to ensure better relationships? But what happens when the parent doesn't know how best to express his or her love for a child? Suppose the child becomes belligerent, arguments ensue, communication breaks down, and the child leaves home. What is the parent to do? The dangers facing runaway children are urgent. Who among us wouldn't exert great effort to prevent someone in our family from running away? Is the answer really as simple as a hug -- expecially if it's not heartfelt?

In some contexts the word hug can mean ``cherish.'' But what is the parent to cherish: a mortal whom the parent created and is responsible for molding into an adult? Or is there much more to each one of us as a child of God, the image and likeness of Spirit?

In the Bible we read, ``Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.''1 What our loving Father gives as a blessing cannot be turned into heartache, because the true nature of man is not a sinful mortal. God's offspring is upright, governed by His wisdom and love. God is present where separation seems to be, and His love is sufficient to meet any need.

Turning in prayer to God as our Father and striving to see His nature expressed in each member of our family bring untold blessings to our home. But can this prayerful cherishing heal what appears to have already gone wrong in a relationship?

At one time I was having a relationship problem with one of my sons. I had been praying about the situation for some time, but my prayers had not given me peace. Instead of asking God what I needed to know to heal the situation, my prayers had been outlines of how I felt things should be resolved. Clearly, I was not feeling God's ``gentle presence.''

These words are from a poem written by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. The poem is called ``The Mother's Evening Prayer,'' and the first stanza reads:

O gentle presence, peace and joy and

power;

O Life divine, that owns each wait

ing hour, Thou Love that guards the nestling's

faltering flight!

Keep Thou my child on upward

wing tonight.2

I felt the need for support, so I called a Christian Scientist friend to pray with me. The friend suggested that I study the story of the prodigal son in the Bible.3 As I read this beautiful parable, I began to see how in the story the father's love for his two sons illustrated God's love for me and my son. I saw how he let the younger son learn his own lessons but was ready to comfort and help when the son returned home. I also saw how compassionately the father dealt with the elder son. Then I perceived a parallel between myself and this self-righteous son.

I prayed more humbly than ever to be free of self-righteousness and of the self-will of wanting things to work out my own way. This false sense didn't dissipate without a struggle, but gradually I was able to see that these ugly dispositional traits did not really belong to me as the image of God, good, anymore than the ugly traits I had attributed to my son could belong to him. I felt God's love encircle both of us, and mentally I hugged my son. As this new spirit of respect and love was born in my heart, I found my son to be more cooperative and our home more harmonious.

Recognizing God as the creator of all, and humbly praying to see Godlike qualities in each one of our children -- to see that our children are, in truth, His offspring, spiritual and Godlike, cared for by Him -- we can embrace with honest affection a ``prodigal'' in our family. Then we can say, ``I have hugged my children today, and my family has been blessed.''

1Psalms 127:3. 2Poems, p. 4. 3See Luke 15:11-32.

You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. I John 4:7

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