I’ve noticed a recent trend in parenting articles (my go-to leisure reading in this season of life) that something parents can do to help support the development of boundaries early on in their children is to resist the urge to “force” their kiddos to hug or kiss friends and family members before they are ready. Naturally, some children are wired to be more physically affectionate than others and take no issue with handing out hugs like candy. My son Shiloh falls into a different category of being more hesitant to make physical contact with others, often even with people he knows. It has been a learning curve for us as parents to respect his process of establishing safety and to encourage him to continue observing his own feelings and perception of his surroundings before conforming to the norms of what might unfairly be expected of him. And of course, as a three year old, he can also demonstrate some defiance in refusing to give a hug to someone he knows as safe, just to be a stinker.
Our tender Father is the one who designed us with these boundaries and emotional safeguards with the intent that we are prepared to protect our fragile hearts in this often treacherous world. And He follows that design so beautifully by giving us that same respect and time to acclimate before we are ushered into his arms. He remains available, with a posture open to us pressing near, while allowing us to enter his embrace as we feel safe and ready to be vulnerable.
He knows that some of us have been wounded, and our sense of safety has been skewed, while others of us are wired to be cautious and contemplative before diving into the depths of the relationship he has intended to have with us. And for those of his children, he understands that forced proximity might more resemble restraint and suffocating rather than intimacy.
When we are ready to surrender our qualms and receive the embrace that he offers, we find a source of endless revelations and the deep calling out to deep. Beyond that, we have permission to be still. In the arms of the Father we experience complete peace, as his arms wrap around us and calm the fidgeting of our anxious thoughts and restless hearts.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. Isaiah 40:11