Daily Archives: January 11, 2014

What a Touch Can Do

by Susan Irene Fox

And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:2-3)

As a single woman in her 60s, I live a fairly isolated life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a full life; I write, I study, I have friends, I go to church. Yet, there’s something in my life I don’t have that others do and may take for granted.

Touch.

If you live with someone, or you are dating, you have the opportunity to be tangibly touched on a daily basis.  Those of us who are single, who rent a room or live alone can be touch deprived.

According to Psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, touch deprivation is a real thing. “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting,” says Hertenstein.*

One of the many things I love about Jesus is that he was willing to physically touch people. It was part of the healing process. It was one of the ways he showed love, shared grace, acknowledged faith and invited people into his heart.

 “As Jesus passed on, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David. When he entered the house, the blind men came to him and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ then he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’ And their eyes were opened.” (Matthew 9:27-30)

“Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.’ And he went with him. Taking her by the hand [Jesus] said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking, and they were immediately overcome with amazement.” (Mark 5:22-24, 41-42)

“And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, [the unclean spirit] came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of the said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” (Mark 9:26-27)

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

I must selfishly admit that one of the reasons I look forward to church on Sunday is that I get to hug people – my touch quotient for the week.

The act of embracing floods our bodies with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes people feel secure and trusting toward each other, lowers cortisol levels, and reduces stress. Higher levels of oxytocin lowers blood pressure and heart rates, according to research done at the University of North Carolina.**

Hugging is one of the ways I find Jesus in church. Hugging helps me to connect not only with other worshippers, but with the heart of Jesus. I go early just so I can seek people out to hug. I need those hugs, yet I also think that there are others who crave the warmth and connection of a hug well given.

The night of the last supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. (John 13:5) He allowed John to lean against his chest and whisper to him. (John 13:25) These are scenes of close friendships, and extended hands of grace and love.

I have a request. Please, lift your eyes outside of your circle.

When you are living the routine of your family life, look around for those who are single, who live alone. Initiate a hug. If you work outside the home, attend classes or church, buy food at a grocery store, or come in contact with people who are single, who live alone, who seem isolated, offer a hug. If a hug seems too bold, try a hand on a shoulder. Human touch is vital for survival, for thriving, for emerging from the hermit-state of isolation in which we unintentionally find ourselves.

Touch awakens our minds, our hearts and souls to the proof that we are not alone, that we are not invisible, that someone cares, that maybe even someone loves us.

*The Power of Touch – How Physical Contact Can Improve Your Health
**CNN – Touching Makes You Healthier