I once spent the better part of a counseling session rubbing lotion on my clients arms and hands. Before you report me to the licensing board, please allow me to explain. My client was 87, suffering from dementia, and resided in an assisted living center. As the months passed by, she and I grew very close. I would appear in her doorway each week and she would say things to me like, “I was waiting on you…what are we going to talk about today?” One day as we were talking, she commented on how dry her skin had become during the winter months. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a bottle of lotion on her dresser…what can I say, my humanity kicked in.
She willingly surrendered her frail arms and hands to me, gently closing her eyes, slowly sinking deeper into her armchair. Not many words were spoken that day, but I swear to you, that was one of the best hours we ever spent together. She just needed to be touched.
I came across an article in Christianity Today that speaks directly to our need for physical touch at every stage of life.
Touch is an essential human need. When we shake hands or put an arm across a friend’s shoulder, the body releases neurological chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin that feel good, while also inhibiting chemicals that cause stress. But touch doesn’t just feel good; it is vital to being human. When babies and children are deprived of touch, their brain development is permanently impaired, which can destroy the growth of social abilities and result in lower intelligence.
I was blessed this year with the birth of my first nephew, he is absolutely, hands down, the most precious baby boy to ever grace God’s green earth.
That boy probably gets 100 hugs and kisses from his parents and loved ones each day. He is LOVED, and his sweet demeanor and budding personality is proof in the pudding – touch is vital to human development.
I would argue that this need does not diminish as we age, however, it does change in appearance and intensity. For instance, the second grader needs you to hold her close when big emotions feel scary, the angry teenager in the passenger seat really would like for you to reach for his hand, and play his favorite song on the radio. And the very busy, emotionally-detached wife, would like for her husband to hug her, really hug her.
As I have grown older, I am becoming more and more aware of my need for physical touch and affection. When my daughter takes my hand as we walk down the street, my hand feels her touch, which signals my brain, and my heart is warmed. Her touch usually leads to our eyes connecting, a smile, then a sweet thought about one another. All of this occurs when she simply takes my hand in hers.
I think Jesus touched people on purpose. Think about it, he could have healed the blind man by simply proclaiming, “You are healed!” But he didn’t do that, instead, he used physical touch, not once, not twice, but three times:
They came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and brought him out of the village. Spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people—they look like trees walking!” Again Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes. The man looked intently and his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8: 22-25
My sister-in-law is from Jordan, in fact, she and my brother-in-law spend half of their time in the Middle East. I love being around her, she is fascinating, and vibrant, absolutely beautiful and very loving and kind with our girls. I receive a hug and two kisses when we say “hello” and when we say “good-bye.”
Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. 1 Peter 5:14
Of course, this caught me off-guard when we first met, being American and all…but I quickly caught on and this has become second-nature to me when she’s around. And I love it. I wish we greeted one another like that in our country.
I’ll leave you with this – do you think the God of the Universe knew that touch had the power to heal, redeem, and reconcile? I mean, before it was scientifically proven to release pleasure hormones and block the negative effects of stressors? Um, yeah, he might have done that intentionally folks.
Just think about it…