Years ago I went on a long trek to go speak at a church literally in the middle of nowhere Africa, better known as "the bush." We drove for what felt like forever, then we hiked forever, and eventually we made it into this little wooden building. There were about 80 people piled into a building that was probably never meant to hold more than 20. The unstable wooden benches were packed with mamas in their traditional dresses as little faces peered in through the windows. I wasn't sure if they were here for church or just to see the white woman who had somehow ended up in this little remote village. Light poured in not from a light bulb, but from the gaps in the ceiling. The floor was just dirt so whenever anyone moved around it flew into the air like a west Texas dust storm. After three rounds of worship, an offering, special child's choir, drummers, dancers, and introductions I eventually was called up to preach a message. I don't even remember what was said. As I began to make my way out, eager to go rest after a crazy trek, a tiny old lady approached me.
She said nothing, but wrapped me into an embrace and began to cry. I didn't understand it, but I cried too... not just little sniffles, hard and heavy sobs. We hugged so tight it felt as if I was squeezing my best friend after a long absence. At the end of our embrace, we just looked at each other and turned to walk away. No words were ever exchanged. As I shuffled off a little confused and slightly embarrassed at my emotions, Holy Spirit said to me,
"She is one of my closest friends, you hugged her for Me."
That moment marked me. It is one of those points in my history with Jesus (Cue Alton's Song) that continues to weave its lessons into my present.
I was young and ambitious. I wanted to lead thousands and thousands to the Lord, to run into the darkest and most dangerous places to help the broken, forgotten and mistreated, I wanted to heal the masses, create solutions for injustice, and preach all over the globe. I was just beginning to step into my biggest dreams.
This woman was old and wrinkled from a hard life, but content, living in a village that didn't even have electricity. She would never do the things I was dreaming for and yet...
Jesus called her one of His closest friends.
I learned some things that day, but two things I left knowing for sure:
1. I wanted to be one of His closest friends.
2. I wanted to spend my life hugging people for Him.
A few days ago I had a friend pull me into a hug and say firmly, I love you, which she then followed by some direct Truth that I needed to hear. It was this love and Truth that yanked me out of an interesting "funk" I'd been in for way too long. (I'm sure I'll write about this soon) This blunt, loving, and encouraging confrontation breathed fresh life into me. It broke off some of my hardness. Some of my fears. Some of my disappointments. It forced me to believe again.
What I've come to realize is that she didn't just hug me, she hugged me for Him.
When Jesus encounters you, things change. Love penetrates the deepest layers of our humanity breaking off the scars of trials and the shackles of bondage.
You don't have to preach some anointed sermon, run some amazing non-profit, have the solution for the world's problems, or even lead the masses to Jesus to touch lives and bring change. These are all great and honorable things but sometimes Jesus is just asking you to hug someone for Him.
It could be offering a tangible hug. Maybe it is a card with encouraging words. Perhaps it is just going out of your way to make sure someone feels loved. It could be following Holy Spirit into the "bad neighborhood" in your city or out into the most remote village, just to embrace one person... for Him.
I don't know what it looks like for you, but don't believe the lie that you have to do BIG things to make a BIG difference. Small acts of love can have the biggest impact.
At the end of the day, that's still all I really want.
I want Him to call me one of His closest friends.
And I want to hug people for Him.