I would expect that most of you have heard about studies that have been done around the importance of human touch, especially in babies and young children. A little investigating revealed something extremely interesting to me regarding the significance of human touch for adults. There are three big advantages of human touch, and they may surprise you:
1. Human touch inspires thinking and expands trust.
2. Human touch reduces social anxiety and stress.
3. Human touch boosts the immune system and lowers blood pressure.
Isn’t that fascinating? Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, where we are told over and over again to keep social distance, to keep our hands off of others and off of things – no hugging, no handshaking, etc. In the midst of that, (and perhaps because of that), we are losing our ability to think creatively, to trust others – opinions, science, government, police, and so on – and our stress and anxiety are off the charts. We are actually putting our immune systems in jeopardy at a time when we need to stay well if at all possible! This mandatory personal isolation we have been participating in is the very thing that could keep us well.
Now, please don’t interpret this as me saying we shouldn’t social distance or that we should throw caution to the wind in order to fill our depleted touch tanks. I am more wanting to shed light on what it might be that is contributing to our sadness, our anxiety, our overall discombobulation, as we navigate this time of mandated distance.
As we look at the life of Jesus and his method of ministry, he touched. He often put his hands on someone in need of healing. Jesus was even willing to touch the leper (the ancient Covid 19 patient). In Matthew 8:2-3 we read, “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed from his leprosy.” He was providing through his touch the very advantages sited above: inspiration, trust, freedom from anxiety and stress, and physical healing. It seems counter-intuitive that we would be deprived of touch at a time when the advantages of touch are so needed.
Some of us have a companion to shelter with. Some of us even have young children around who still need and demand all the cuddles and physical interaction they require. But others of us are alone. Even when we aren’t social distancing, our touch tanks run on empty. What do we do to fill that tank? The obvious pat answer is to look to Jesus. You know: we are never alone because his presence is real and personal. But like the little girl who called out to her mommy to come and be with her after awaking from a bad dream said, “I just need Jesus with skin on!” we crave and require actual physical touch. So what can we do? I’d like to share a few ideas.
On a nice warm day, go outside and sit with the sun on your face, even just for a few minutes. Close your eyes and imagine Jesus touching your face and arms with his warm hands just as the sun warms you. Then go out in the grass with your shoes off. Feel the coolness and the prickliness of the grass, the firmness of the ground below and let it ground you and connect you to God who made the firmament. If there is a breeze blowing, listen to it interact with the leaves – watch the shifting of the branches and feel the coolness on your skin. Breathe in the fragrance of flowering shrubs and freshly mowed grass. Now go inside and pour yourself a cool beverage or a hot cup of tea or coffee. Feel the coolness or warmth of it travel down your esophagus. Eat something spicy or sour or sweet and enjoy the pleasure of it in your mouth and on your tongue. God has created us to see, feel, taste, touch, hear, and smell. In this time when we may feel deprived of so many other things, let him touch you and heal you through opening up your senses to his goodness and beauty and love. Let his love overwhelm you. Let tears come, or laughter, as you enjoy his presence in these physical ways. Begin to practice seeing and feeling God with your senses throughout the day. May it fill your touch tank with all that you need for each day and each moment during these challenging days!
With virtual hugs,