MB and I headed to Big "D" for a Get-Away-Weekend, a weekend bullied by eating - In-N-Out Burgers, Panera Bread, Pinkberry, and Fogo de Chao (I'm still digesting the cow I packed into my gut). But, we did manage to squeeze in some Swing lessons: triple-step, triple-step, back-step, step and a 60 minute massage! It was that massage that spurred this post!
As I lay covered with a thin white sheet, staring at the floor through the hole in the table that framed my face, with a stranger pushing, pulling, rubbing, and chopping my body I asked myself, "Why does this work? Why does it feel so good? Why do we pay so much for something that seems a bit strange?" Sure, there is something relaxing and healing in a massage. But, I can get a similar effect from a massage chair, a jacuzzi tub, or rolling my feet over a wooden stick and yet it's not quite the same. The difference is the human touch, literally. God created us to long for human-human contact. We need The Other's touch.
Babies understand it because we haven't yet deprogrammed them. I often hear people say, as the child cries, "Don't pick her up. That will just train her to cry for what she wants." That is one way to see it, or perhaps the baby stops crying when you pick her up because because human touch soothes - being cradled and cuddled calms.
This summer, as I isolated myself from most of my friends and family in order to cope with my sin, I started having "touch" withdraws. There were some weeks I was starved for a hug. One night, in the midst of a "touch" fast, I drove 35 miles to my parents, knowing they did not approve of my current choices, just to beg for a hug. Another time, while living at my cousins, I was on my way out the door for work when his mom (who just happened to be in town) said, "Are you okay? Do you need hug?" Earlier that morning, while I primped for work, I couldn't stop thinking, "I really need a hug. I really need a hug." She read it all over my face and so as my aunt embraced this 34-year-old man I wept. I needed her touch.
I've noticed the intentional touch of MB's and my therapist. She conducts herself in a perfect professional and approprieate manner. I notice how carefully she maintains strong therapist/patient boundaries, and yet EVERY week as we leave her office she stands by the doorway and gives us both a gentle tap on our right shoulder. It's simple; it's light, and yet in that touch she says, "I care about you as a person and not just a patient." Touch matters!
It is in God's design. Genesis 2 paints a picture of God The Sculptor forming man with his hands - close and intimate. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Gen. 2:7).
Scripture continues to reveal God's design for touch through the person of Jesus. Although able to heal with a word, time and time again he heals with touch:
- The leper in Mark 1:41 - Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
- The deaf and mute in Mark 7:33 - After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.
- The blind man in Mark 8:32 - He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
- Jarius' daughter in Mark 5:41 - He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).
- Mark 9:36 - He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them...
- and Mark 10:16 - And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.