With alarming frequency I’m finding that I start to write; not knowing for sure where I’m going! So, if you are brave enough for another journey with me, read on!
I’ve been thinking about touch. Which is not unusual – I think about touch a lot.
Whenever I am going through a particularly rough time, I crave touch: a hand on my arm, an arm around my shoulder; a shoulder to lean on.
Research shows that children need healthy touch for healthy development. A counselor once commented that some consider touch deprivation to be the most damaging form of childhood physical abuse.
I grew up in a family that did not touch. That, and my being a victim of sexual abuse, formed my belief that I was unworthy of touch because of some internal flaw I could not see. My God-given need for touch became a source of shame and guilt. For years, if someone did touch me – I would pull away. Not because I didn’t want touch, but because I felt that by allowing someone to touch me, I was somehow wronging them.
I still struggle being comfortable with touch. Fortunately, I have friends who know me well enough that they touch me, regardless of how “untouchable” I may be acting. (In fact, while I was writing this post, one of those friends popped into the coffee shop. Two bear hugs and a cup of coffee later, he was on his way. Thanks dude – I needed that!!!)
Touch alleviates my “group anxiety”. Sometimes I feel I don’t belong, even when around people I enjoy. A touch on the arm, or a squeeze on my shoulder, can break through that anxiety in a moment. Touch, from those I trust, communicates a sense of belonging and safety.
Ironically, I have a hard time initiating touch. If I gave myself permission, I’d be the annoying guy who is always giving slaps on the back, playful neck holds, and hugs.
I’ve started giving myself permission to ask for touch. After a tough conversation, a friend said “let me pray for you”. It took guts, but I responded “I need you to touch me”. With his hand on my shoulder, he prayed. God would have heard his prayer anyway. But his willingness to touch me communicated his care and compassion in a language that spoke deeper than words.
That kind of touch communicates Jesus’ touch. The prophetic picture of His intimacy with us is beyond my comprehension. Isaiah 40: 11 describes it this way: “He (the Sovereign Lord) gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”
Including the tears I have cried over my need to be touched.