As I’ve mentioned before, in Asian cultures we typically do not express affections such as hugging or kissing both at home and in public. So what happened when I arrived in Westvale, home of the life-long huggers? Was I in for a surprise! After a series of traumas and recoveries (refer to previous article), I can confidently say that I have progressed in my hugging skills. Some would adamantly disagree but let’s just say that it can only get better. By embracing this new skill, I’ve discovered a boldness that sprung within me. I believe it was the Lord who gave me this boldness. I was ready to share with others what I learned. I am going to hug people who never taught me how to hug – my parents. This is big! But before you react, consider the context - I can’t remember the last time I was hugged or kissed by my parents, and I was taught to keep a distance from those I respect and honor which is a prominent idea in Confucius thinking. So, the question was, how am I going to plan this out, but more importantly, can I really do it? I needed to plan this carefully with an element of surprise, giving them no time to react.
The plan came shortly thereafter. I already had made plans to visit my folks over a weekend. The weekend quickly came, and as usual we all had a great time - except me. I was nervous the whole time. Now it was towards the end of our stay, and almost time to leave. The moment had come. My parents were outside by my car to bid us farewell, and after putting my dog in the back I approached my mom first. I gulped and awkwardly raised my arms, and said “Good bye.” To be honest, I’m not sure what I said. All I remember is her smile as she gave me a short, strong and robot-like hug. Then I walked over to my dad. As I went in, his facial expression said,
“What do think you’re doing?” I could feel his arms around my waist; he’s only about 5 foot 3 inches tall. Then we got into our car, and we waved to them as we drove away. It all happened so quickly- thank goodness! That was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever done with my parents. Needless to say I was quite relieved that it was over. The space invader broke the ice, and changed how feelings and love are exchanged. We are creatures of habit, and we employ culture to limit our influence and experience. Particularly in the multi-ethnic communities in which we live, we miss out in the opportunity for deeper and wider experiences if we choose to live in isolation.
We are all invaders of various sorts and skills. We are called to share the love of God with others. How can we if we are so isolated? Paul empowers us to break the ice and build bridges with others. He says, “When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. (1 Cor. 9:20,21). Paul was an icebreaker too! No culture, no language, no political affiliation should stand in the way of the life changing opportunity to know and love others. Westvalians are good at this for which I’m very proud. I challenge everyone to live as space invaders.
Since ‘Hug Day,’ I have hugged my parents every opportunity I get, and thankfully our hugs have become less awkward. They still stiffen up, and movements are unnatural. However, what impresses me the most is how they really enjoy hugging. I can see it on their faces; what a joy it is to see that!
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 ESV