November 09, 2021

The Hug that Unlocked My Heart by Steph Beth Nickel


A few months ago, still in the thick of COVID restrictions, we helped dear friends move. They have regularly helped us. So, we volunteered without hesitation.

Sandra has had the best parts of 100 surgeries on her leg and several hospital stays. Because of the extreme pain she regularly experiences, we don't get together as often as either of us would like. Even so, I consider her one of my dearest friends.

Let me take you back to our first encounter on the phone. Her family had just begun attending our church. Because she was at a physical low point, she had not yet joined them. I, therefore, didn't know if her hubby was a single dad or if she was a believer. I called to see if her family would be attending the potluck at the church and to ask what they'd be bringing. I didn't feel I was being abrupt, but it came across that way.

Years later, long after we'd become great friends, she admitted that, as a result of our first telephone conversation, she thought I didn't like her. Never underestimate the impact of your interactions with others, especially those first conversations.

I laugh and cringe when I think back on this revelation. I'm so incredibly thankful for God's mercy and grace and the precious friendship that has developed over the last almost 30 years.

Until the pandemic hit, four couples would regularly get together at a restaurant during the Christmas season to enjoy one another's company. I deemed our group the Crazy Eights. Trust me. The staff and other patrons were glad when we had a table off in a quiet corner because it wouldn't be quiet for long. Let's just say, we enjoyed one another's companya. lot.

I consider these get-togethers among my happiest memories. Even though the restrictions have eased some, for various reasons, I'm not sure we'll all get together anytime soon. 

Another memory stands out in my mind. I spent an hour or so visiting with Sandra when she was in the hospital many years ago. As I was leaving, she matter-of-factly stated, "I love you." I was blown away. Although I'd heard those words countless times over the years, never before had a friend said them so unironically, so naturally, so surprisingly.

This is the kind of friend Sandra has been over the years, despite the fact that she originally thought that I didn't like her. So, you can see why it was a no-brainer to help this precious family relocate—thankfully, not too far away.

Well, as I was standing in her new kitchen, Sandra gave me a hug. Not a shoulder squeeze. A full-fledged hug. 

And that's when it happened ...

The door to a room in my heart that I didn't even know was shut, locked, and barred closed swung WIDE OPEN.

All because of a hug.

Some of you have lost loved ones to COVID, and my heart hurts for you.

Some of you have contracted the virus and are still suffering its long-term effects. May God strengthen you and restore you to full health.

While we may not have been impacted so directly, I believe we've all suffered loss because of COVID-19. 

I wasn't aware how desperately I needed a hug from a friend. It's such a simple act, but one with unimaginable power.

If you're not comfortable hugging or shaking hands at this point, don't underestimate the power of a phone call; an in-person physically distanced visit; or a card popped into the mail.

You may be the one with a hurting heart or you may be instrumental in healing someone else's hurt. Most likely, a simple act of love will unlock both your hearts and fill a void neither of you may have been aware of.

No wonder the Bible says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother [or sister] is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17 ESV).


  1. Dear Steph, your words today are like a hug. Yes, so much we've missed due to the events of the last (almost) two years. I especially appreciate your thoughtfulness and respect towards the different levels of comfort we each may have. Your suggestion to continue practicing kindness in whatever way we're able to is so important right now.
    Hugs are gold these days. Pure gold. As are true friendships.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  2. Thank you for sharing from your heart Steph!

  3. Wonderful post. Thanks for the reminder that the Lord will work through us to provide a healing balm to someone if we will just reach out. Thanks, Steph.

  4. What a good post this is. In this panic-demic paranoia, we've been divided one against another. Even a phone call or a card in the mail is like a visit. A phone company called AGT had a slogan. "Your voice is a visit." Now we have Skype and other video conferencing tools to see one another. Remember too that Jesus touched lepers, a huge taboo and a great health risk. Let's be Jesus to the people!

  5. Thanks for this lovely post, Steph Beth. Isn't God wonderful to give us moments or revelations or caring hugs from another and we awaken to an open door: "The door to a room in my heart that I didn't even know was shut, locked, and barred closed swung WIDE OPEN."

  6. Sometimes we don't know we are longing for or missing something until we experience it again. Hugs certainly have been one of the casualties in this pandemic, missing for far too long. But thankfully these powerful moments where we touch and connect with each other are returning. Sending you a big heart hug, Steph. (((heart))) Thank you for your lovely post.

  7. Thank you for your huggable post, Steph! As a lifelong hugger I can't wait for hugs to be common again. Ok, InScribe family. Let's all hug each other across cyberspace if that's all we can do right now. :)


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