Hugging Lazarus

Hugging Lazarus

“Do you know how long it has been since I’ve been hugged by someone who cared about me?”

The words themselves were striking. And yet it was even more striking as they settled in us, bearing the weight they ought to have, as we simply looked upon the one who had asked the question.

Of course, how could we know the answer?

I think his words were revealing to himself. His eyes were rimmed in unshed tears, the ache visible and arresting. He was surprised by the sweep of emotion and we were likewise caught up into that surprise. The moment before had been ordinary and now we found ourselves in suddenly deep waters, like when you walk along a riverbed and shockingly find yourself underwater when you simply expected the next step to be like all of the others.

It was another evening in prison, practicing the music before Mass. I don’t remember what preceded this conversation, but I remember the moment when we plumbed the depths. One of the men was sharing about how it was against the rules to hug volunteers and then another mentioned how he had recently been hugged by a pastor when he was struggling with a situation. And, suddenly, there we were in the depths as the man recognized the importance of that human contact, the need he had to be embraced by someone who cared about him.

I wondered if he even cried in the moment of receiving the hug. After he asked that question, those of us nearby could only turn and look at him, reveling in the stillness and sincerity of the moment. It was a window into his soul. We didn’t know what he had been struggling with at the time, but we were certain that this simple action from a pastor was life-giving and humanizing.

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Asking "Why?"

One of things I’ve come to realize is that I often need to guide myself in processing my own feelings.  Sometimes I feel things and I acknowledge what I feel, but then I stop there.  I don’t go into asking myself why I feel that way.  It can almost seem silly to do that.  If you get in a fight and are angry, of course it was the fight that was the impetus for the anger you now feel.  Yet I’m learning that I need to ask myself why I feel a specific emotion, and then begin the process of sorting through what exactly made me feel that way.

The problem isn’t necessarily solved just because I thought about why I was feeling a particular way, but it often is the first step in the process.  Sometimes it takes a while to pinpoint what exactly it was that triggered my response.  The information isn’t always exactly welcomed information because it often reveals an area of weakness within myself, something that I thought I had sufficiently covered or fixed.  Yet it is a starting point, nonetheless.  Ideally, I can acknowledge what I feel, relate it to the Lord, understand why I feel that way, and receive His grace to carry on.  Interestingly enough, that is quite a bit like a prayer I’ve prayed with many times–the A.R.R.R. prayer.
A.R.R.R. stands for the four steps of the prayer: Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, and Respond.  First, we need to acknowledge what is happening in our thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Then, we tell the Lord all about it, with honesty and sincerity.  Next, we receive what the Lord desires to give us in that moment.  Finally, we respond to the Lord, whether in a resolution for going forward or through conversation with Him.
To learn more in-depth about this type of prayer, please use this link and scroll to the bottom of the article for more detailed steps.  This link also includes similar information.