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Hugging God

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When I was 7-years-old, I tried to hug God. I remember the night very distinctly. I was lying in the top bunk, staring at the plastic, glow-in-the-dark stars and planets suspended from the ceiling, my little childlike heart overwhelmed with love. God felt close, and suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to give him a hug.

There’s something beautiful about how little it takes for children to feel secure
. The enthusiasm with which they give and receive love is astonishing. For me at 7, simply knowing that God was my friend was enough. I loved him because I knew he loved me and it was that simple. And since a hug was the best way I knew how to express my love, I grabbed my large, brown teddy bear and squeezed him as tightly as I could. “That was for you God,” I whispered silently, confident that heard me.

Even at the time, I knew the idea was a bit silly, but that didn’t matter. In my imagination, the plastic stars on my ceiling represented the real sky, and God was just above them, watching and smiling as I hugged him through the medium of my teddy bear, pleased to know that I felt his love.

And that’s how simple loving God was
—as simple as hugging a teddy bear; as simple as trusting that he knew my heart; and as simple as remembering that he was always there. I never questioned God’s love for me, and I never really questioned what it meant to follow Jesus. It simply meant that even though I was the one who hung the stars and planets from my ceiling, he was the one who was in control. And I was okay with that. It was enough to know that he loved me. But things didn’t stay that way.

There comes a point as we age when the simplicity of love—the ability to trust without asking questions—is replaced by a desire to analyze, understand, and control. It happens to each of us for different reasons, but when this change takes place, it’s suddenly easy to see why Jesus said we must all come to him as children.

You see, as I left the world of teddy bears and plastic stars for a world of uncertain realities, the innocence of simply wanting to hug God was replaced with a desire to analyze him. Seeking to understand God is not all bad, but it does have its dangers. God is mysterious; we will never understand him in his entirety. When we begin to demand an explanation for everything, we are abandoning trust. And the moment we let go of trust, we leave the door open for another desire to sneak in—the desire to control.

We would be far better off simply trying to get to know God
—acknowledging that there are ways in which he will always be mysterious, while still seeking to learn his heart. But this requires surrendering control. And the more complicated life becomes the harder that is to do. After all, if I hung the stars in my personal sky, shouldn’t I be able to decide what happens to them?

The desire to analyze is often accompanied by the ability to rationalize
. The more we think we understand God, the easier it is to rationalize why we should have control. But often, when we think we understand God, all that we really understand is what we have made him out to be—a God of our own design, who we can wrap our little minds around. This is again, an attempt at control. And when we are trying to control God, we lose sight of both the love and trust that accompany the childlike heart Christ calls us to have.

I don’t remember the last time I felt like hugging God
. I love him. But lately, I’ve found it harder to approach him with the openness I did that night when I was 7. I think I’m afraid that he’ll ask me to surrender control. I’m afraid of trust, because it means admitting that I don’t have all the answers. It means recognizing that I can’t run my life.

But it’s exactly that kind of surrender that produces the relationship of openness I had with God as a child. Loving God will produce a desire to trust, a desire to let go of my feeble attempts to control my life. But love cannot be manufactured. I may want to love God, but I still have to reckon with my sinful nature that conflicts with this desire.

And that’s where hugging God even when we don’t feel like it comes in
. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “If you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” His advice to one struggling to love God is to do the things one would do if he were in love with God. While most of us would not go around trying to hug God, this image can come to represent almost anything. If hugging God is how you would express your love, then do so. If love for God would compel you to spend more time with him, then that is what you should do.

In a way, it is different for everyone, but there are also ways in which it is the same. If you know love produces a desire to surrender control, to approach God with trust, then don’t wait until you feel the love. Hug god now. Elsewhere, Lewis states, “I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey him.” When we do what God has called us to do, love will follow. So obey now. Trust today. Surrender control this moment. Hug God even when you don’t feel like it. Love will follow.

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Written by liferenewed

August 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm

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