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
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About Susan Irene Fox

Jesus follower, peacemaker, unfinished human. Body: over 60; Reborn: August, 2006. Writing devotional workbooks for new believers. Dedicated to using God's grace and unconditional love to bring people into God's embrace.

Posted on January 11, 2014, in Facing the new year, On Christianity, On Church, On Loving Others, On Relationship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. A Wonderful Post 🙂 Thank You. Hope you Have a Great Weekend!

  2. This is great – and good advice. People need physical touch, it lets us know we aren’t alone. I will lift my eyes.

  3. Hi Susan

    To touch, to feel, to know the touch of the Master’s hands. We so much need touch, to feel valued, loved and appreciated. When I was training to be a minister I worked for three years as a volunteer with The Salvation Army in an inner city community of Toronto, which the media dubbed the Jane/Finch corridor. Sadly, many of the children I came in contact with came from abusive homes.

    One day I saw a teenager crying. I touched him very gently on the shoulder. I wanted to comfort him, to take as much time as was needed to listen to his wounded soul. I didn’t know at the time he was abused and still being abused by his father.

    As I touched him he jumped and backed away. He became angry. He shouted at me, “Don’t touch me! Get away from me!” Later that day when I asked my pastor about him, he told me the sad and horrifying story of this boy’s abuse and so many others who had been physically and sexually abused. I will tell you my stomach churned inside just hearing about it. Coming from an abusive home myself where my schizo affective father before spanking me would say, “The hand or the book.” and would hit me, often knocking me to the floor, and tell me that I was lazy, stupid, awkward and would never amount to anything, I admit my blood boiled with anger and an inner rage towards those who were abusing these children and teenagers.

    It was so difficult for me to love the abusers, to understand that they were ill in their minds. It was one of my most challenging ministry experiences to be called upon by God to see and understand not only the pain of those who have been abused, but to show love and compassion to the abusers, while still holding them accountable for their actions. I thank God that I had such a wonderful mentor in my pastor, who taught me how to minister to the abused..

    This teenage boy needed so much to be loved. I told him I was so sorry for touching him. The last thing I ever wanted to do was to fan into flame the haunting memories of past abuse and enliven current memories of that.

    I found it so difficult to do, but my Lord called me to pray for the abusive father. He too needed a touch of the healing balm of Christ of Gethsemane.

    I learned an invaluable lesson at age 19 to not assume I can just touch anyone who is crying. We must be more aware of the person’s situation before we do so.

    Susan, thanks for this insightful and heart-filled piece. If I was there I would give you a great big Kevi teddy bear hug. So, just picture me hugging you across the many miles that physically separate us.

    Sending Kevi teddy bear hugs from Englehart, northern Ontario

    Kevin

  4. Wish I could see you to give a hug. Have a great week.

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