Meditations by John Dean

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


(Isaiah 40:11 Message)  Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

There are many ways of showing affection, but hugging has to be the warmest and ‘most tender’ of them all. I do not understand all that takes place during a hug, but I am sure that there is a transfer of feelings in a hug that does not occur during a handshake or even a kiss.

The purpose of a handshake is to show friendship and covenant. The purpose of a kiss is to show love and passion, but hugging conveys warmth and protection and in some ways an exchange of life.

Researchers have discovered that hugging is extremely effective in healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. They have also discovered that a ‘proper deep hug’ builds trust and a sense of safety as well as heals feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. They even claim that an extended hug lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness. Hugging even strengthens the immune system because of the gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates. This in turn stimulates the thymus gland which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells which tends to keep one healthy and disease free.

Hugging even boosts self-esteem. From the time a child is born their family's touch shows them that they are loved and special. As a matter of fact the associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from one’s early years are still imbedded in the nervous system as adults. The cuddles a baby receives from their Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level throughout their life and therefore it gives them the ability to love themselves.

Another benefit of hugging is that it relaxes muscles which release tension. This of course takes away pain and sooths aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues and even helps balance out the nervous system.

Even though there does not seem to be an end to the benefits of hugging there is what I call ‘false’ hugging which carries no benefit at all. A ‘true’ hug is a body hug, but a ‘false’ hug is the head hug, the shoulder hug, or the side hug. These types of hugs are learned behaviors and are not natural and therefore carry no benefits.

The head hug is when two people stand far enough apart and only their heads touch when they embrace. The shoulder hug is when two people are shaking hands as if they are passing one another and their shoulders touch in the process. The side hug is when two people want no body contact at all, but feel they should at least attempt a hug.

These are learned behaviors because hugging comes natural with children and no child hugs with their head, their shoulder or with their side.

A couple of weeks ago while holding a revival in Mexico I had the privilege of having a lot of children in the services…which meant I did a lot of hugging. There is something so pure and special about hugging children and each time I did I became more and more aware that each child seemed to completely disappear in the hug. It was like we were one person instead of two.

Because their hugging was so complete I think I can understand why researchers have discovered the array of healings in hugging. I am not sure where this old saying came from, but it says, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

Perhaps this puts a deeper understanding to our text, “Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, hugging them as he carries them...” However, I guess the real question is, “How many hugs a day do we need?”

You said in Matthew 10:8 to “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.” Is the prerequisite for healing hugging? Father we want to be both healers and huggers.


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