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A Simple Embrace (#GrowDeep)
by Rey Diaz
Posted on Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Since 1999, after I read “Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen, Rembrandt’s painting has been my favorite.  I’ve read dozens of books and articles that analyze his famous painting.  In the painting Rembrandt captures the moment of embrace;

The hug between a lost son and a loving father.  Henri Nouwen tells us “this is where I belong.  In the embrace of my heavenly father.”  I’ve thought about this painting during the difficult seasons when life is overwhelming.  I belong in that embrace.


And over time I’ve realized how much I long for that embrace.  I also see it in my children who can never get enough hugs whether they are crying or feeling shame or just happy.   I had the privilege to visit the painting at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.  I was moved to tears imagining the day when I will be embraced by my Heavenly Father.

I heard Dr. Curt Thompson, a psychologist specializing in the integral relationship between God and others, say “every child is born into the world looking for someone looking for them.  And they never stop looking.”    The bible teaches that we are wired for connection and relationship.  Without it we wither and die.  With it we flourish and thrive. When God looked at Adam, He said “Its not good that man should be alone.”  That’s true for all of us.  No matter who you are I know this to be true: you long for someone to love you.  We all long to be in that embrace.  For someone to know us and love us.  So many scientific disciplines   (neurological, biological and behavioral studies) have all arrived at the same conclusion: There is no successful life apart from connection.  Every person needs this to thrive.


For the children we are serving, for the most part, that connection has been ruptured.  Maybe disease has taken the life of their parents.  Maybe abuse, neglect, and abandonment, has warped the relationship where now its fear, anger, and hate.  Maybe poverty has fragmented their family.  The children we serve have broken relationships with the people who should have loved them most.   They are looking.

Looking for love. 

Looking for relationship.

Looking for God.

They wake up to a world that is not looking for them, doesn’t value them, and doesn’t care about them.  No one is embracing them.


In the slums, in the fields, there are children asking these questions:
  • Do I matter?
  • Am I loved?
  • Was I an accident?
  • Who is looking for me?

The good news is that our Heavenly Father is in the business of restoring these broken relationships.   The gospel writers went out of their way to include details about who Jesus touched.  In Matthew a leper runs up to Jesus and pleads for healing.  Lepresy had not just affected this man’s health, but had ostracized him from his family and community.  He would have lived in a leprosy colony.   How long had this man gone with no one touching him?  Can you imagine the loneliness?  Can you imagine the aching for someone to look you in the eyes.  Jesus heals the man.  In other cases, Jesus says a word and healing is instantaneous.  But Jesus sees the real needs of this man.  The need for connection.  The same need I have and the children we serve have.  So Jesus “reached out and touched him” (Matthew 8:3).  Jesus touches this “unclean” man breaking so many laws and customs in the process.

The man clearly had physical needs just like the children we serve have physical needs.  The ministries we partner with serve as a lifeline to these children.  Yes they provide the basic needs; food, education, medicine, psychological support, and protection.  But like Jesus, we know that there is a deeper need for connection and love.  Above all our minstries provide LOVE. These children long to be embraced. These children wake up knowing someone is LOOKING for them.   Our ministries helps build and restore broken relationships and provides hope to a child who lives in a world of uncertainty and chaos

I always ask the question “What is the most powerful change agent in the world?”  According to the Gospel, its to be loved and to love.

Dr Curt Thompson said “What children long for most is connection.”  Deep connection and healthy attachment.  They want to be known and loved and accepted and affirmed.


I saw this picture of a little girl receiving a hug.  Immediately I thought about Rembrandt's painting.  I looked at her smile.  I don’t know her story or her family or really anything about this little girl.  All I know is she scavenges in a garbage dump in Guatemala so her list of physical needs are daunting.  But I also know she has a need to be embraced.  And that our heavenly Father longs to embrace her.  And on this day, He did.

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