The Touch of Your Hand
“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.
‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’" Mark 1:41 (NIV)
The labor and delivery of my second child was fast. In fact, within three hours after the first inkling of pain, I was in the hospital being prepped for delivery. Although my husband stood at my side, the intense pain surprised and overwhelmed me. You see, my first delivery took 13 hours, with lots of pain intervention. This time, because of the speed, I had no pain relief.
I’ll never forget looking into the face of the young nurse standing at my right, coaching me through the delivery. After an excruciating contraction, I said, “Would you hold my hand?” She smiled and grabbed hold of my hand while another wave of pain radiated through my body.
I knew it sounded pitiful and needy to ask someone I didn’t know to hold my hand, but at that moment I needed her strength.
There have been other times I’ve needed to hold someone’s hand. The first time I went snorkeling, I thought I was going to pass out I was hyperventilating so badly. I held my husband’s hand on my left and my son’s hand on my right until I could control my breathing and enjoy the incredible sights. Hiking up Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, I held someone’s hand when I wasn’t grasping on to rocks. I’ve held my mother’s hand and my sisters’ hands as we’ve walked through the pain of losing loved ones.
There’s something about physical touch that brings comfort and stability in an uncertain world. The New Testament is filled with stories of Jesus touching those around Him. He laid His hands on women who had been scorned, children dancing at His feet and lepers ashamed of their faces. I picture His hands always reached out to someone.
In this world of virtual relationships, conversations managed via electronic devices and fear of inappropriate touch, I wonder if we are losing our physical connections to each other. And yet God designed us to need touch. In fact, it is critical to our health – both emotional and physical. Babies need touch for their brains to develop and children need touch for their emotions to develop. Experts say appropriate touch has a profound effect on the brain's programming and re-programming.
Perhaps it’s time to become more intentional about offering loving and appropriate touch to others. We all need it, but often find it awkward to accept and offer. My immediate family is very comfortable with touch, as my children have grown up with lots of physical affection. But I have to be intentional about reaching out to others in gentle and creative ways.
I have discovered reading the New Testament that the first believers were very affectionate with each other. In fact at the end of Acts 20, we read that all the believers embraced and kissed Paul as he was leaving for a journey. They were also encouraged to greet each other with a holy kiss.
While I realize not everyone is ready to be touched with such intimacy, I am challenged to bring healthy touch into my relationships in greater measure. Whether it’s a hug, pat on the head, stroke on the arm, or a holy kiss, touch is needed in our society. Maybe if we brought more healthy touch into our relationships, people wouldn’t be driven to seek it in inappropriate ways.
For whatever reason, God designed us to need the physical touch of others. So the next time you need to hold someone’s hand, I’m your gal.
Dear Lord, I know You designed us to need the touch of other people. It’s not always easy to admit we need someone to hold our hand, or give us a hug. Help me to be more aware of the needs of those around me, and to offer healthy and loving touch in natural ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
When Your Child is Hurting by Glynnis Whitwer
Visit Glynnis’ blog for tips on creative and healthy touch.
Consider starting a Gather & Grow group
The next time you are at church, challenge yourself to offer healthy touch to two or three people. Become the person who offers a hug, rather than waiting for one.
Think about reasons why God would design us to need the physical touch of others.
What are some things that keep us from offering loving touch to others?
1 John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (NIV)
1 Peter 5:14, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” (NIV)