There was a time when I wanted a hug. But I really didn’t know I wanted it.

I was quite the rebellious teenager, always getting myself in trouble. But not just as a teenager; growing up into adulthood part of that rebellion remained and many were the times when I had to be tamed.

I well remember Ralph Hiatt one night when I was living with them. I was late that night after youth service, too late  admittedly. I came in as quietly as I could, went into my room and closed the door behind me before turning the lights on, and there like an apparition was Dad Ralph -as I call him- sitting on my bed. You can just guess the title of the sermon that followed.

I did not know then, but that was a hug. And still today I appreciate it, although at the time I did not like it.

But there had been many times in my life that I run into trouble and I didn’t have a hug. It makes me ask the question: How many bad decisions we make, or wrong steps we take simply for want of a hug? I am convinced that many times no amount of responsible behavior will go as far keeping me out of trouble as a simple hug that says: I care.

Crime, drugs, sexual mess, loses, school failure, they can all be “hugs”. I know, now you are frowning, looking at me with eyes near crossed. But let me explain, or at least try to explain this feeling I have.

My real dad was a good man, with a good heart but with misplaced conceptions regarding love and responsibility. He run by the theory that it was not good to be expressive regarding love for the children, so we seldom had any hugs or other forms of paternal love expressed.

As children, and many times as adults we don’t know that we need a hug. As children we might not yet have experienced any and as adults we often block ourselves by closing down any perceived vulnerability. We do not realize that our soul is longing for that hug, reassurance, comfort, and loving confidence, so we might end up unconsciously trying to find that hug somewhere.

Some might find some substitute in some positive action, writing, developing musical activities; but sadly most of the time we find hugs in the list above which includes strange diseases, allergies, psychosomatic illnesses, falling into addictions, drugs or sex, violence, crime, in the end a big cry for help: a cry that says “I need a hug”

Parents hug your kids. A hug says care. Might not be physical, but a hug is always felt in its closeness to someone who actually cares.

And you, yes you! Admit you need a hug.

Drop the thorns. Drop the know it all with which you feel protected. Drop the wandering and find a way to commit to something that will keep you embraced. Find someone to hug, it will be the hug you need in return. Embrace an embrace.

He hugged me.

It was late afternoon, I went to my brothers house because I needed to talk, but once there I had this urgency to go back to my house. Not sure why. However, I left and went straight up to my room, although by Argentine standards it was way too early to go to bed.

I was then coming back to the Lord after wandering away for some time. I went straight to the chair where I used to pray. I needed to pray, but I couldn’t, I did not know what to pray, or how, I was confused, such a desire to pray and being unable to actually pray.

I said, “Jesus, I need a hug” as I motioned my arms around myself as if hugging someone. With eyes closed that room exploded with the sudden Presence of God. I found myself in a hug that felt physical. I could feel a head, hair on my shoulder. It was real. I never knew this could happen. Instantly, I started crying loud and with a washing of tears. Those tears were washing years of missteps, situations were changing in a moments time, mindsets crumbled down.

I could only think of going with Jesus, just as He was hugging me. I just wanted to go. I felt like my body was going to disintegrate like a star wars movie of sorts. But then I heard Him say: “I still need you here” and softly the hug ended as if dissolving. But the presence of God remained, and it is with me even today.

The one thing that hit me most from that experience was not the physical feeling, and the awesome sense of God’s tangible Presence, mighty as that was. The really amazing thing was what He said: “I still need you here”. My Lord was reaching out to me, who had denied Him, and have been away from Him with anger and disillusion with the church He loves so much, and mad at all things religious and have made a mess of my life, and with a hug He was telling me that He needed me.

That was a hug.

That one sitting quietly over there, does he need a hug? The one who did not come this week? Who is hugging them? The one who is struggling with an addiction, or felling depressed, or cannot cope with a temptation, or has fallen into sin and is feeling utterly guilty, or that one who feels all the weight of their failure, or that boy who was abandoned by his parents, or that girl who was abused…the list is endless.

The essence of ministry “A word in season to those who are weary”. A hug speaks words that words cannot define.



  1. Linda Helfrick

    Thanks for this. I think I will call my sister who seems so far away and give her a “Hug”. Thanks Conrad.

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