Shutdown the Hugs!

Check out my book "Things I Learned in Jail" ... from serving at a recovery center. More stories for anyone handcuffed to despair.

No Hugs

For many weeks we had not hugged. For many weeks the girls were on shutdown. But also, for many weeks we (thankfully) gathered to hold church in spite of their punishment. Thus, the Word of God was shared even in the limited movement at the recovery center.

As I entered the center after weeks of such down activity, I was unsure if the day would bring hugging like raindrops of hope. Or if the day would bring more of the same, faces like a sandstorm of dry, gritty glances, and heavy hearts. After all, the scorching reality of consequences from breaking rules in rehab was a part of their journey. A part of reality. We all have boundaries to consider.

Hugs Return

I made my way down the long hallway, heading toward the dining hall, and one of my girls popped to my side from an opened side door.

Her face glowed. Her lips smiled. Her joy leaked like an ocean of waves breaking onto the dry shoreline of life. And she bounced as she moved, cascading with each step, her arms going straight out. “I want the first hug in church this morning.”

“So you’re off shutdown?”

“Yes. Since last Monday.”


We skated side by side, my heart pounding, and we were like happy drums booming with expectation.

Hugs Galore

We then burst into the dining hall, where dozens and dozens of girls waited for service to begin. Each face glowed, the hungry souls waited for teaching from God Word, each in need of mercy and grace.

It’s as if the Lord broke through the storm clouds, and we had a taste and see the Lord’s goodness embrace. Because in a flash, I was surrounded by first, one girl. Then two. And then more than fifty girls waited for hugs. I’m not sure if I embraced them, or if they held me.

They were now free to talk, to move around. To worship. Free to shine. Free to move ahead with a fresh start. And some may have needed to learn a lesson from the shutdown. Or maybe all of us…need to be still and know God, that He is on the throne.

The wind of sadness drifted away and the current of sorrow lifted. Sure, the consequences of bad decisions had been dealt with, but their joy was evident, and they were excited at the return of their freedom.

The Hug We Need

Even when our strength seems weak. Even when it’s hard to be in shutdown. And even when we feel worn and weary. Even if we can’t hug someone. We can find rest in God. We can run to Him. And be held by Him. His embrace is sustaining.

I pray the girls in recovery see that true contentment comes from their relationship with Christ. May they wrap their pursuits in a desire to obey Him. May they not shut Him out, but instead, may they stretch their arms out toward Him. And open their hearts to the Savior. He is their refuge. Who saves and redeems.

With Christ it’s all gain! His steadfast love never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new each morning! Even in shutdown!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”  

Lamentations 3: 22-24 ESV


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