I just returned from a mission trip with our church’s high school group. Over 100 students from various parts of the country came together for 10 days to serve the poor of central Jamaica. Some helped with a local VBS while most assisted with building homes. At the end of each day the students hang out and relax back at base camp; lots of new friendships are formed.
One of the rules that the students are expected to respect is “No PDA (Public Display of Affection)”. This applies to the students who are boyfriend and girlfriend because their behavior could be misinterpreted culturally. For those who are simply pals, hugs are fine and commonplace.
I think that sometimes we lessen our physical affection because we don’t see and hear our children’s need for love. But God does because He sees the heart and He made them with a need for His love. As their world gets larger, people and circumstances in the neighborhood, at camp, at school, and with siblings can cause them to question their value and worth. They need to know they are deeply loved.
This is one of our primary purposes – to tangibly express God’s love to our children. PDA – hugs, kisses, holding hands, a warm squeeze of the knee, tickling, a tender stroke on the back… the more we do this over the years, the less likely our children are to seek value and love through unhealthy means. In fact, they are better prepared to embrace God’s love as they come to learn of having a personal relationship with Him.
What if PDA was not modeled for you or you feel awkward giving affection? God knows this and He will help us. 1 John 4.8b-12 says, “…for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Practice alot. Pray for God’s help. It’s interesting…even when I’m exhausted, in a bad mood, or stressed out because of all that I have to do, when I hug my child, my disposition doesn’t get communicated; love does.
God will use our effort for His purposes.