Sooo…. confession time. I hugged a stranger in the parking lot. In other times, this might have been acceptable, at least to some people. (Where my huggers at?! You get me!) But now we are all lepers, all unclean, barely able to look each other in the eye and give an uncomfortable nod. I KNOW I broke the rules.
But let me explain. In my adult life, I only remember ever seeing one or two people cry in the grocery store. But this woman wasn’t just crying – she was almost hysterical. She ran-walked down the aisles, eyes scanning the floor, as an employee followed. She had lost her credit card somewhere in the store – only realizing it AFTER she brought her cartful of groceries to the front and prepared to pay. A few other customers asked for her story, and she said she needed that credit card to buy groceries – and to buy enough gas to get home.
A couple of us chipped in to pay for her groceries, while someone else volunteered to follow her to the gas station and pay for her gas. That part was relatively easy, and it felt good. (It always feels good to help someone tangibly!)
But deep down, I knew that it wasn’t enough. The sickening feeling of having lost something valuable hangs on tight, making you uneasy until the thing is found. And only desperate anxiety makes a person lose their cool in a public place.
It’s the kind of thing that Jesus offers hope for – “peace that passes all understanding” – the kind of human problem that can only be reached by a divine breath – the kind of thing that money for gas and groceries doesn’t come close to touching.
When I saw her in the parking lot after she had checked out, I felt a tug on my heart. I knew what God was prompting me to do, and I REALLY didn’t want to do it. It made me uncomfortable, and nervous – let alone SOCIAL DISTANCING! Come on Jesus, don’t you know that we’re not supposed to get close to people right now?!?
But I did it. I walked over to within TWO FEET of her, asked if I could pray for her, (got a tearful “yes”), prayed for the return of her credit card and for the peace of God to hold her tightly in the meantime, and said amen.
And then she hugged me. And I hugged her back. We two lepers, standing in the parking lot, in need of God’s mercy, extending grace to each other in the midst of a lost credit card and a worldwide pandemic. And if she didn’t feel it, I sure did – that supernatural peace holding our anxious hearts.
So while I am not advocating breaking the rules of social distancing, I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s words: “In order to love a person, one must come close to him or her.” And then of course, these words in Hosea: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
This Easter, as we prepare to celebrate that Jesus has the power over everything – even sin and death – let’s be the doorway for heaven to invade earth by TOUCHING SOMEONE [figuratively, for now!]. Tangible things do help, especially in this uncertain time. But let’s not forget to share our lives, too. Our phone calls, eye contact, smiles, prayer (and hopefully hugs, soon!!) – these things communicate the love of God not just to bellies, but to hearts. And that’s a pretty essential business, if you ask me. 😉