Hugs and healing

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

A recent movie, "Love Actually," played off the idea that airports, rail stations, and ocean terminals are active hugging centers - places where ordinary people open their hearts and let their emotions spill over, no matter who's watching.

The hugs are of infinite variety - bear, bunny, leaping, dignified, comical, diffident, firm. Children, of course, tend to throw all flavors into one humongous squeeze that could be interpreted as "I'm glad to see you," "I love you," or maybe even, "I hope you've brought me something special" - perhaps all three. But the common emotions are thankfulness and joy.

The movie reminded me of a slide show titled "Children of Light." This presentation brought a spiritual dimension to family reunions.

My favorite scene came toward the end when the audience was transported to the arrivals area of an airport, with sweeping shots of vast ceilings and expanses of glass, with the blue lights of runways beyond.

Then the scene shifted to planeloads of people being met by loved ones, old and young. We saw relief and laughter and tears of happiness in their eyes while the narrator quoted from I John in the Bible: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God" (4:7).

For me, that slide show vividly portrayed the nature of God's love for His children and John's expectation that God's sons and daughters would show the same quality of love toward one another.

At a church testimony meeting, I recently heard someone voice the idea that healings are God's hugs. At first I thought, "What a cozy idea, especially on a cold winter day!" Then I reasoned, as wonderful as hugs are, they often symbolize something deeper and more meaningful - affection, closeness, encouragement, support, congratulation.

It's the same with spiritual healings. They are a sign of God's inexhaustible love, but they are not the love itself. They are practical evidence of God's love at work in our lives. They confirm how close God is to us, show His wrap-around concern for our well-being, consolidate the wholeness and continuity of this family connection. Healings help us to know and understand the nature of God, the Creator of perfect love, the Giver of all good.

God's love is infinite. All-embracing. Multifaceted. In VCR/DVD terms, always on Play. And for those of us who sometimes goof up by straying from God's protecting arms, there's a mental button labeled Rewind - as well as another marked Repent.

It's never too late to go back and put things right - redeem a situation or some silly impetuosity on our part. Sometimes this means saying we're sorry. Or sometimes we have to find creative ways to make amends by emulating the love of God in our handling of the one we have offended or hurt. It always means making carefully considered adjustments in our approach to people and situations.

Often the required change calls for us to take the initiative in the way God does. "We love him, because he first loved us," wrote John. God takes the first step. And earlier in the same passage of Scripture, John declared that this is the spiritual environment in which we should live our lives: "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (I John:4:16). That's where the healing takes place, because there is no space there for anything un-Godlike - anything less than perfect.

The button to avoid is Replay. No regurgitation of unkind remarks or negative criticism - and, least of all, others' taunts, icy or heated.

Hundreds of stories related in this column have confirmed that God's hugging, healing love is wider than a prairie sky, deeper than the Pacific Ocean, more abundant than the stars on a sparklingly clear night. And Science and Health assures everyone, "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" (page 494).

When divine Love governs your thought - or figuratively takes you in its arms and hugs you warmly - you soon realize you don't have to be in an airport, rail station, or an ocean terminal to experience the tenderest, most healing embrace available anywhere.

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