4: The Arms of God

4: The Arms of God

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

The Arms of God

A hug delights and warms and charms, that must be why God gave us arms.

~Author Unknown

I was sitting at the table, hunched over my checkbook, agonizing about my unpaid bills. “Ugh! We might as well go to church.”

“Kids! We’re going to church. Get your shoes on.”

Being a single mother was frustrating enough. Add my nonexistent love life, stomach problems, and mounting financial woes, and church seemed the best place to be.

It was Wednesday night and the children’s programs would entertain my kids while I sat in peace, hopefully receiving encouragement through the pastor’s sermon.

I was twenty-three and hadn’t learned money management skills. Consequently, late notices appeared in my mailbox regularly.

I also knew nothing about stress management. Years of partying had taken a toll on my body and my mounting anxiety seemed to make my stomach problems worse. I carried a large bottle of antacid in my purse. I was thin and growing more pale and fragile each week.

Driving to church, my children chattered excitedly in the back seat. Sadly, I didn’t share their enthusiasm. I felt defeated.

Why was I going tonight? It was the middle of the week and it’d be past the kids’ bedtime when we got home. I had to work in the morning, and I was wasting gas.

Entering the building, the kids ran toward their classroom. I followed and greeted their teachers. “Hi there! Thanks for serving tonight!”

“You kids behave and have fun,” I tried to sound cheery as I hung up their little jackets.

Walking down the hall toward the sanctuary, I grew more pessimistic with each step. They’d need new coats in the winter. Where would I get the money for that?

The large room was dimly lit. The sermon didn’t lift my spirits and I sat motionless when the pastor dismissed the congregation. It was time to get the kids and head home, I silently groused, dreading the long, dark drive into the country.

Slowly I stood up and looked around. A few groups of people greeted one another here and there across the large auditorium. I had no friends there. Why was I even there? I’d wasted enough time and money coming in the middle of a workweek. I felt like an idiot.

Chastising myself, I turned to leave. About six feet away to my left, a large, older woman stood alone. I felt her staring at me. My head was hung low but I glanced up and smiled at her. She held my gaze and stared into my eyes.

“How ya doin’?”

I was surprised she spoke to me; she didn’t know me. I stepped toward her and sighed heavily, “Oh, I’m okay.” I forced a smile, “Gotta go get my kids.” She wasn’t fooled by my fake cheerfulness.

Turning toward me, she held out her arms. “Come here, baby.”

Without even thinking about it, I entered her opened arms. “You look like you need a hug, sweetie.” Her large arms enveloped me and I melted into her bosom.

Uncharacteristically, I stayed there for several seconds, my head resting peacefully on her chest. Beyond her physical warmth, she radiated the love of God. Confidence, strength, joy, and wellness flowed from this large, lovely woman into my little, sickly frame.

As I backed away, she held onto my upper arms. “You go get your babies now and you have a good week, ya hear?” I nodded, still surprised at my own reactions.

Peace overwhelmed me as I walked to my children’s classroom. I was overcome with a profound love for my kids.

I helped them put on their jackets as they excitedly told me what they’d done in class that evening. I found it hard to listen and couldn’t shake the feeling that someone intensely close to God had embraced me.

Suddenly I snapped to attention. “Come on kids, there’s someone I want you to meet.” I hurried my children back into the sanctuary. “Aw, she’s gone.”

I stopped two ladies who had sat behind me. “Excuse me. Do you know that lady who was in the pew right there?” I pointed to where she had been sitting.

“We didn’t see anyone there. What did she look like?”

Smiling, I described the large woman with the simple dress and cardigan sweater. “No, I didn’t see her,” they each responded.

“Well, we’ll find her Sunday. Let’s head home kids.”

I left church that night feeling well physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The adoration that poured out of me onto my children was a renewed, unconditional love from God.

For the next several weeks I searched for that sweet lady. I looked on Wednesday evenings, Sunday mornings and even Sunday evenings, but never saw her again. It felt like she was a messenger sent just for me.

The love that was infused in me when I was encircled by her arms was affection straight from heaven. It was life-transforming and contagious. Living with renewed hope, my cheerfulness was genuine and it was easy to lavish unconditional love on my children and others.

~Kelly J. Stigliano

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