“Turn and greet your neighbor.” A simple request heard in churches every weekend.
For some this request is greeted with dread.
Not everyone in a church meeting wants to acknowledge, let alone shake hands with the stranger next to them. The very thought can send them running to hide in the restroom.
Most times I am happy to greet those around me with a simple hand shake, just don’t ask me to high-five or fist-bump…not happening!
Then there’s hugging. Did you just squirm in your seat? Did the very thought of hugging someone you hardly know cause you discomfort? Me too.
Last Sunday I sat in a different seat to my norm finding myself next to a lady I have never met. I said hello and gave a friendly smile when she first sat next to me. Then came the time in the service when we were encouraged to turn to our neighbor and greet them. I extended my hand in friendship and she graciously responded.
Then it happened!
Holy embraces all around! Romans 16:16 msg
She pulled me a little closer wrapping her arms around me as she informed me ” I’m a hugger.” Honestly I didn’t have time to pull away. There I was, embraced in a hug with a total stranger…are you cringing?
If that had taken place a few years ago I would have stiffened like cardboard, held my breath as I endured the torture and made sure I avoided her in the future. I no longer respond to that degree, though I still have a little hesitancy, a little awkwardness, a little embarrassment but a lot more grace.
It is only as I have responded to God’s love for me, accepting His warm welcoming embrace have I slowly become more comfortable with accepting and showing affection to others.
Whatever church gathering you attend I’m sure the leadership would want you to feel safe. It’s okay not to shake hands, high-five, fist-bump or hug. It would be sad to stop attending church all because you dread the “greet and meet” time.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7
Set your own boundaries, you know what you are comfortable with. In the meantime allow the One who loves you unconditionally to draw you into His warm embrace. Let the Lord melt away your fears and break down your walls. Let Him fill you with His presence and grow you in His grace.
Maybe you will never be a hugger, and that’s okay. A warm friendly smile and a welcoming hand-shake can say “I’m glad to have met you today.”
I was glad to have met the lady next to me even if she was a hugger. We spoke after the meeting (not about hugging). I found out she was visiting from out of state and this was her first time at my church. She had shed a tear during the service and told me how she wished she had a church like this one in her home state. I’m glad I didn’t push her away.
To those who are comfortable with the “greet and meet” time. Let us be mindful of the people around us, may we respect their boundaries…you can usual tell from their body language. One last thing, I do not allow men (other than my husband) to hug me full on no matter how long I have know them and definitely not a male stranger.
Are you a hand shaker, high-fiver, fist-bumper, hugger or a hide in the restroom woman? Share in the comments, you may be surprised to find you are not alone.
Until next week
Looking to Jesus. Living in His Radiance