Thinking Out Loud

September 28, 2020

Lost Embraces: A Lament


by Capt. Sheldon R. Bungay

originally published as The Phenomenology of Embrace; used by permission

I see the images flicker across my news feed and my heart yearns for justice,
yet another unnecessary black death, another riot, another shooting,
another political party fueling the fire and building a platform founded on a lack of truth.

I see the vitriol, the hate, and hear the cries of the oppressed,
I see the disease, the hunger, the lonely, and the dirty faces.
I see the mother who named her child, “Jihad” so that he will never forget.
I also see the sign that reads “stay six feet apart,”
and I cannot help but feel:
If I had the ability to wrap the whole world in a vast global embrace,
I would.

Alas, I cannot.

There is much that I miss from the time before now,
Near the top of that list is the simple embrace.

Why?

Because a hug is more than a form of greeting, or a nice gesture,
It is a drama that unfolds in four acts that has the power to convey much about the relationship between the participants and walks a fine line between love and oppression depending on the intentions of the one who initiates the contact.

Act One: Opening the Arms

This act is an opening of one’s self to another that says “come, be part of who I am.”

Found within these open arms are both a twinge of pain because we feel incomplete without the other, and a welcome sign that suggests I have created space within me for you!

Like a door left open that requires no knock, you are invited in.

Act Two: Waiting

What humility and risk! What courage it takes to extend your open arms to another without guarantee of acceptance or a reciprocated act. The other cannot be coerced or manipulated to respond if the embrace is to have full positive effect;
We have no confirmation that this is what the other desires, or longs for,
and so we…. Wait.

Act Three: Closing the Arms

There it is — goal achieved!

Isn’t it wonderful to think that a hug is only possible when what is being offered is fully reciprocated?
Do you ever think about the beauty of that moment when you are offering yet also receiving?
A true embrace cannot be one-sided, it only works when what is being given is also taken.
And it just feels right.

Act Four: Opening the Arms Again

Notice that an embrace is only love when it is released, if one does not let go the embrace turns to oppression and things get uncomfortable fast.
In a weird twist, an embrace can only be appreciated for what it is when we let go,
only to begin the longing process all over again.
And so, I open my arms to you, and know not if I will be
misunderstood,
despised,
appreciated,
or reciprocated.
But “embrace is grace, and grace is gamble, always.”

Anyone need a hug?


Based on Miroslav Volf’s concept “The Drama of Embrace”
Embrace is Grace Quote – Lewis B. Smedes.

Capt. Sheldon Bungay is a Salvation Army Officer currently serving in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada as Divisional Youth Secretary. Husband, Father of two, student, persistent question-asker and listener.

Graphic: File image, credited to James Sword

November 26, 2011

Recycle Your Marriage

Hats off to blogger and writer Carol Hatcher — I love her blog name, “Sheep To The Right” — for having a piece picked up this month by CBN’s website.  If you want to do the polite thing and click, here’s the article.  Statistically, many of you won’t so here it is for those of you whose mouse finger is arthritic today:

“What are you going to do with that?”, she reached her wrinkled hand across the generations between us and placed it on mine.

“Umm. Throw it away?”, I said in more of a question than an answer.

“Oh, this would be great to make little ornaments.” My husband’s grandmother recycles everything. She saves butter tub lids, the little cotton in the tops of the medicine bottles, and the inner wrappers from the cheese cracker boxes. She comes from a time when you didn’t throw anything away.

Even with the focus on going green, we live in a disposable society. Paper napkins, cups, and plates make washing dishes a thing of the past. At the doctor’s office, you’ll be handed a throwaway gown, and the airline gives throwaway pillows.

Unfortunately, we’ve also bought into the idea of disposable marriages. When your husband leaves his wet towel on the floor or your wife never looks your way, the world tells us, toss ‘em. It’s the same disposable mentality we find on aisle 6 of the grocery store.

Care must be given to things meant to remain. We brush and floss our teeth each night hoping they will last a lifetime. We hand wash the china passed down from our great-grandmother to protect the gold from rubbing off the edges. Hours are spent bringing old muscle cars back to their original glory. Time and effort are necessary in restoring or maintaining something we plan to keep.

With the current push for Americans to recycle, the number of recyclers still hovers between 70-80 percent depending on the area of the nation. The divorce rate, however, lingers around 50 percent.

So, why not recycle our marriages?

Webster’s definition for recycle is to pass again through a series of changes or treatments, to reuse, or bring back. If we want a lasting marriage (and we should), sometimes it’s necessary to pass our marriage through a series of changes to bring it back.

So what can you do to recycle your marriage? Here are a handful of ideas to get you started:

1. Discover your spouse’s love language and speak it.

Gary Chapman’s book 5 Love Languages is a great book to help you understand how to express love to your mate in the way they need it. Chapman’s five love languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Often we show our spouse love the way we want to be shown it, not the way they need to hear it. Find which love language your spouse speaks, and use it often.

2. Practice the 10-second kiss at least once a day.

You’d be surprised what a little lip-lock can do to jump-start a marriage. Make it a habit to kiss good-bye and hello each day. Then turn up the heat by prolonging your kiss at least ten seconds – the longer, the better. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, hang in there. Before long, you’ll forget you were counting and get carried away in the moment. Trust me, some eyebrows will be rising, and they might just be your own!

3. Check in during the day.

With today’s advanced technology, there is no excuse for not communicating. Drop a quick “hope your day is going well.” Whether you text, email, or use the old fashioned telephone, contact your mate at some point while you’re apart. If you’re busy, just say so but follow with, “I was just thinking about/praying for/missing you.” A little effort goes a long way.

4. Apologize for old hurts.

If there are any unresolved issues, apologize for any hurt feelings that may have occurred as a result of you. Drop assumptions at the door and discuss the true issue. Remember, it’s important for all parties to feel like they are being heard. Use the rules of active listening, and repeat what you hear to make sure there isn’t a kink in the line of communication. Then share your feelings in a way that isn’t accusatory. Don’t forget to keep your voices low. Yelling only creates tension.

5. Pray for your spouse.

Praying for your mate is always a good idea, especially if your marriage is in dire need of repair. An amazing thing happens with prayer. When we pray for those who hurt us, our hearts soften, and we often realize where our own faults lie, as well. Prayer is free, it’s simple, and you can do it any time of the day.

If your marriage is cracked, beat-up, or you are just plain fed up, don’t be so quick to throw it out with the crumpled paper napkins. Marriages really aren’t meant to be disposable. With time, effort and a little TLC, you can recycle your marriage to last for years to come.

~Carol Hatcher

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