I admire my brother’s girlfriend. She does this thing… I don’t think she know she does it. Anais always hugs everyone in the room when she walks in, even if she just met them. She always hugs everyone in the room when she leaves. When I first met her, I have to admit, it made me uncomfortable. I was curious about my discomfort and why this intimate gesture made me feel….well, weird.
I am not the kind of woman that warms up especially fast to people. I’m an introvert by nature, and it takes quite a bit of conversation before I feel connection with someone. Good or bad, that’s just how I’ve always been. My vulnerability and acceptance don’t come easy. I can be a bit hard-hearted that way.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Anais over time. I’ve watched her make my brother happy, encourage his desire for more of God and Jesus, and watched her love my entire family as her own. She stuck with us through the weirdness. She stuck with us through the awkwardness. She was present through the tears and grief of losing my father. She’s been a strong, soft place for all of us.
When I realized she was much, much more than a passing fling for my brother, I began to wonder about her openness and freedom to love. I admired it, and yet, I almost resented her for it. I wished it came that easy for me. When I lived at home, I would find myself talking with her while my bother fell asleep on the couch. We had wonderful, deep conversations about life and being a woman in this crazy world. We talked about everything. She listened well, she was vulnerable, and inspired me to take the steps God was asking me to. I began to understand why she hugs everyone when she enters and when she leaves; it’s part of her unique femininity. Anais sees people. She sees all people. She embraces everyone she meets because her heart is just that full of Jesus-love.
When I realized this was an amazing part of her heart, I at first began to make sure I at least said hello before heading to my room when I came in from work and said goodbye before I left. A funny thing happened…I wanted to hug her when I saw her. I wanted to make sure to hug her before she left. As we shared our lives together, I wanted to be sure to return her embrace. I wanted her to know, in her own love language, that I love her too, as a friend, as my brother’s girlfriend, and as family. She’s earned the title.
It doesn’t feel weird anymore. It feels safe.
Not everyone can love the way she does. In reflecting on the sacredness and intimacy of embrace, I’ve realized my own hard-heartedness and how that pushes others away. I don’t want to need your embrace. I don’t want you to have to give me anything.
What I’ve realized is that embrace must go both ways. It’s not an embrace if both people are not invested in it. Embrace requires vulnerability and giving of both selves.
If just one is embracing, the other is being attacked by intensity of feeling. It must come from both to be fully received and accepted.
I moved recently. I told my friends and boyfriend about my plan to hire movers because moving is the most miserable thing to do in the world, and I couldn’t imagine asking anyone to help me. Just a few days later, I found myself sitting across the table from one of my best friends. “So, you’re not allowed to hire movers,” she said. “(Your boyfriend) and I have talked about this and we aren’t going to let you spend that kind of money. We want to help you. We want to be there; we want to help you do this. Okay?”
My mind swirled. “Do they have any idea how much stuff I have? Do they realize this is the most miserable thing in the world to do? What if I accept and they show up on moving day and realize all this stuff isn’t worth it? What if they leave me there, alone, holding all this stuff? What if this stuff is just crap, and they realize they’ve wasted a precious Saturday on me? I don’t want to need their help.”
Evil is a sly Devil. It sounds like I’m trying to spare my friends. But, the insidious fear there is that I’m not worth it. I’m not worth that kind of effort.
I sat for a moment. Then I accepted. I didn’t want to push my friends away. I would hurt them by refusing their offer and paying strangers (a counterfeit that costs much more) to be there for me. They knew what they were signing up for. And you know what? They think I am worth it. They didn’t leave when they saw all the stuff. My boyfriend stayed through it all and didn’t break up with me. (I laugh a little knowing I thought that would happen.) My Uncle Bryan and Aunt Brenda came to pray for the apartment like my Dad would have done for me.
I allowed myself to be embraced.
It feels good, safe, needed, and lovely.
I’m trying to open my heart and offer all the Jesus-love I know is inside me. I’m trying to not fight His embrace as so much is changing, and has changed, for me. His love is steadfast and secure no matter the circumstance. I want to offer that to others. It is such a rare and beautiful thing in this ever-changing world. Where can we, as women, challenge ourselves to love more and live more authentically? It may be easier than you think. It may be in the smallest of hugs, the most passing of smiles, or showing someone they’re worth it. Be embraced and embrace others this month, dear ones. I pray you experience of Jesus like I have.
Anna Hull lives in San Antonio, TX. A graduate of Schreiner University with a B.A. in Religion & Political Science, Anna is passionate about finding Jesus in every day life. She enjoys unexpected adventure, making genuine connections with others, and finding beauty in chaos.