Love in the Big Bear Hug

“Love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

Driving down the highway with the city fading in my rearview mirror, I breathed in deeply, releasing the tension in my body. There is nothing like a drive in the country to lighten the stress of the day. Turning by the local market on the country road named after my mom’s family, I smelled the sweetness of a summer breeze.

At the end of the road lay my great aunt’s white clapboard house with a swing in front. I stopped about 10 feet from her door to take in the summer sunset lighting up the sky, like it was on fire. The fiery sunset above her home was very appropriate because she was a joyful and Spirit-filled woman and she was a spite fire. She loved visitors, and I always knew that no matter the length of our time together that I made her day. Greeting each visitor with a big hug, I felt her genuine love for me. Often, her big bear hugs were so tight that my grandmother would say, “Elaine, do not squeeze her so hard.” She would chuckle and grin and let go a little.

According to the world’s standards, my great aunt was considered not normal because she had developmental and intellectual delays, similar to down syndrome, but her IQ and development were more advanced. However, according to God’s standards, she was advanced in all the things that matter: loving God and loving others. The way that she asked how you were doing had such a purity of love and genuine interest in your life. The smile in her eyes radiated the joy of Christ in her heart. Unrestrained by her childlike love, she wanted to tell everyone about the most important person who ever lived, Jesus Christ.

Whether shopping at the grocery store or walking downtown, she would always see someone that she knew and she remembered their name, most phone numbers, and even street addresses. Not only was her name recall extraordinary, but also she would then lean over to tell us something about them after they walked away. She did not show partiality to people as the world does but treated all people the same. All people were God’s people in her eyes.

Do you show partially in your love for people? Have you ignored or disengaged from a conversation with someone that is different from you in ethnicity or social class? Would you commit to pursue a friendship with someone whom you would not naturally choose as a friend?

Have you experienced a time in your life when you felt so loved that it was too much? If not, pray that you will experience God’s extraordinary love that compelled Him to sacrifice His Son for you? Also, pray that you will experience God’s love in your daily life’s challenges and circumstances. How can you love people more deeply?

Lastly, give your loved ones a big bear hug! Jesus wrapped his arms around you when He went to the cross and will never let you go. God’s love for you is evident in the nail-scarred hands that hold you today and for eternity. Giving a helping hand as Amy did to a complete stranger who was different from her reflects the call of all Christians to love the poor and needy. Read more about Amy’s extraordinary love in the Sacred Story collection on the site. Do not miss the eternal love written on His hands.

Mary Carmen Englert


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