Not long ago I attended a workshop on relationships and bonding. At one point the instructor asked us to hug the person next to us. Well, I didn't know the person next to me and immediately I felt a twinge of anxiety. Now, I'm actually a fairly free hugger, at least with family and friends. But, I've grown more cautious on just handing out hugs willy nilly (is that how you spell that particular phrase?) particularly with my profession. However, I cannot solely blame my fear on that; the fact of the matter is I was scared to open myself up to a stranger. Lucky for me the lady next to me apparently had no such reservations. She got right up walked over and gave me a big and warm hug. If she felt any anxiety about it, she certainly did not show it. Right there something subtle changed inside me. Fear left, replaced with love. Yes, I think you can love people you don't even really know. I also realized in that moment, that though I talked about wanting to serve others, I was letting fear dictate too much of my thoughts and actions. I was too worried about my own self protection. I decided than that I needed to live and serve with my arms wide open.
There is a reason that I'm posting this message at Christmas time. I will attempt to make the connection. Per my usual, it might take a bit :)
Not long after my experience at the workshop I recalled another experience that I'd had. Some time ago I was working with a young woman who had faced some rather difficult circumstances in her life. She was a delightful individual to work with, optimistic despite her challenges. In the midst of working with me she was unexpectedly faced with a tremendously difficult decision. It was in fact one of the most difficult choices I've ever encountered as a counselor. Because of confidentiality I will not go into any more detail than to say either choice had some potential heartbreaking consequences. Needless to say she and her challenging decision weighed heavily on my mind for a time. I kept thinking about my responsibility. I of course would not attempt to make the choice for her, but knew I needed to be a support. I made it a matter of prayer. My question was simple "What should I do?" I did not know, and the answer was not forthcoming.
At some point during this time I attended a mid week religious service. While there my client and my question continued to weigh heavily on my mind. However, and I'm not sure how or when it happened specifically, but a couple of things changed within me rather simultaneously. It went from weighing heavily on my mind, to weighing heavily on my heart. And the question changed from "What should I do?" do "What does she need?". The change was subtle yet had a profound impact on me. And not long later while in the silence of a holy place the answer to what she needed came clear as day. She needed to be in the arms of The Savior.
I can hardly express how humbling that answer was for me. How in the world was I supposed to provide that for this young lady? But, I also felt at peace. God knew how. I just needed to be humble and attentive to learning. And I needed to be there for her, no matter what the answer was, offering support, encouragement, compassion and empathy. The Savior would take care of the rest. And that's exactly what He did.
Things turned out fine, as they always do when we put ourselves in His hands and especially when we put ourselves in His arms. We both openly acknowledged feeling at peace with her eventual decision.
I think providing the way for someone to be in The Savior's arms has many aspects. But, as I was reminded of the experience I thought living with arms wide open is one of those ways.
There is no greater example of living with arms wide open than The Savior Himself. In fact think about the symbolism of the cross. Willingly He gave us the greatest gift, His precious and Holy Atonement, and He did so with His arms wide open. He is love, complete, unfettered, and extended to all who will receive.
He is our example. We strive to follow that, humbly recognizing that we fall exceedingly short. But, still we strive. Christmas is all about giving. We honor and celebrate Christ's gift of love to us. And we in turn try to give that love back to Him. He taught that when we do a service to the least of our brethren (and sisters :) we do that service to Him. As we embrace one another, in whatever way we do, in a way we are accepting and giving that embrace to Our Savior and Redeemer. We love, we look for ways to share that love, and we do so regardless of whether or not we feel fear. If you seek to serve you will find a way. I’ve experienced that in my own life, and especially lately as I’ve tried to honor my commitment to live with arms wide open.
I asked one of my kid client's the other day what he was giving for Christmas. He quickly responded "I usually give my parents and my family hugs" Well, I thought that was just perfect. So, embrace your family, your friends, and even a neighbor you hardly know if you feel so inclined. One of life's greatest treasures is the love we share.
My favorite Christmas anthem is "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." I love the message of being in His Holy presence to adore Him. The third verse gets me choked up just about every time "Yea, Lord we greet thee." I long to one day greet Him, to kneel in His presence. The only thing I can imagine that would be better than being in The Savior's presence is being in The Savior's presence with my loved ones. Honestly, I'd love for there to be a crowd. That can happen as we open up to one another and love and let other’s love you back.
Oh come let us adore Him, with grateful hearts and open arms.
Merry Christmas and May God's richest blessings be yours,
Sarah Emily Jordan