What a Touch Can Do

And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:2-3)

As a single woman in her 60s, I live a fairly isolated life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a full life; I write, I study, I have friends, I go to church. Yet, there’s something in my life I don’t have that others do and may take for granted.

Touch.

If you live with someone, or you are dating, you have the opportunity to be tangibly touched on a daily basis.  Those of us who are single, who rent a room or live alone can be touch deprived.

According to Psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, touch deprivation is a real thing. “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting,” says Hertenstein.*

 One of the many things I love about Jesus is that he was willing to physically touch people. It was part of the healing process. It was one of the ways he showed love, shared grace, acknowledged faith and invited people into his heart.

hands-touching

 “As Jesus passed on, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David. When he entered the house, the blind men came to him and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ then he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’ And their eyes were opened.” (Matthew 9:27-30)

“Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.’ And he went with him. Taking her by the hand [Jesus] said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking, and they were immediately overcome with amazement.” (Mark 5:22-24, 41-42)

“And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, [the unclean spirit] came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of the said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” (Mark 9:26-27)

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

I must selfishly admit that one of the reasons I look forward to church on Sunday is that I get to hug people – my touch quotient for the week.

The act of embracing floods our bodies with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes people feel secure and trusting toward each other, lowers cortisol levels, and reduces stress. Higher levels of oxytocin lowers blood pressure and heart rates, according to research done at the University of North Carolina.**

Hugging is one of the ways I find Jesus in church. Hugging helps me to connect not only with other worshipers, but with the heart of Jesus. I go early just so I can seek people out to hug. I need those hugs, yet I also think that there are others who crave the warmth and connection of a hug well given.

The night of the last supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. (John 13:5) He allowed John to lean against his chest and whisper to him. (John 13:25) These are scenes of close friendships, and extended hands of grace and love.

I have a request. Please, lift your eyes outside of your circle.

When you are living the routine of your family life, look around for those who are single, who live alone. Initiate a hug. If you work outside the home, attend classes or church, buy food at a grocery store, or come in contact with people who are single, who live alone, who seem isolated, offer a hug. If a hug seems too bold, try a hand on a shoulder. Human touch is vital for survival, for thriving, for emerging from the hermit-state of isolation in which we unintentionally find ourselves.

Touch awakens our minds, our hearts and souls to the proof that we are not alone, that we are not invisible, that someone cares, that maybe even someone loves us.

 

This post can also be found at Mind’s Seat – http://marmarthunder.wordpress.com

*The Power of Touch – How Physical Contact Can Improve Your Health
**CNN – Touching Makes You Healthier

38 thoughts on “What a Touch Can Do

  1. I love to hug people too. I rarely get touch also, as I too live alone. I do have 2 furry companions, and they help a lot for not feeling lonely. Like you, I live alone but I am not alone, I have the Holy Spirit to be with me.

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  3. Susan i lost my faith during my youth, i have not refound it although there is something still there in me and i believe i am a spiritual person. i would like to have a conversation about faith with you sometime.. for now i wanted to say how much touch means to me. after 25 years together my husband and i still hold hands daily. whenever we pass each other we reach out and touch each other. getting up for a wc trip at night there’s a gentle hand placed on a shoulder on leaving and returning. often it’s this contact that has been all thats kept me going, on the worst days it has been all that has kept me from giving up and taking drastic action. that simple touch of love has been the most important part of my adult life, especially because i was so terrified of mans touch for so long. we decided on our wedding day 1st dance song because of it’s lyrics about touch for me and because of it’s lyrics about smiling for him. we both find something in each other to keep us going. as i say i lost my faith but in many ways i still believe, for instance i am sure my husband, marriage and family were gifts to me. all those nights i prayed for help that did not come.. i stopped praying. i think that we have free will and perhaps god cant change what is in a mans heart, he perhaps can’t change a persons actions to jump in and stop something but maybe he can arrange for what you need to somehow step into your life? if there’s anything that can make me believe in a loving god it is having my husband and his touch in my life.
    this is our song..

    and i also wanted to say i am not catholic but i have been really impressed by the new pope. he seems to have a hands on approach with no airs and graces and it’s refreshing to see.

    • Thank you for your compassionate response, and the tender song. And I agree with you about the pope (I’m not Catholic, either); I think he brings hope and love and light in dark spaces where there was none before.

      Belief comes, for me, deep down in my core. I believe that, all through my past, He was refining me to be the person I am today. In our struggles, we can either choose to run from Him or toward Him. I ran from Him for a long time, even though He was with me all the time.

      When I finally chose to run toward Him, my eyes were opened to more than I ever expected, and while I cannot see Him, I know deep in my heart that He is there. I feel His smile and know I walk hand in hand with Him. I have a deep and abiding peace and contentment now, even through circumstances that would have ended me before His love filled me.

      So, while I sometimes yearn for human touch, He has touched me deeply, and His love will never leave me.

      I also believe that God’s love brings people into our lives for a reason – whether for love, friendship, encouragement, lessons or healing. I’m so glad He brought us together. :-)

  4. Susan, this is such a touching (pun intended) and important post. Hugging is healing and strengthening and we all should do it more, especially with people whom we suspect are not getting a lot of it on a daily basis. It is especially important for children and the elderly. A companion animal is a great idea, per Cole’s comment. My father said that his mother never, ever hugged or kissed him (she had eleven children). Can you imagine? No one should have to endure that. You have given me much to consider here. A big virtual hug from me to you <3

    • Thanks so much for the blug, Beth. Felt the warmth from across the country. Yummy. Just like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. And no, I cannot imagine never getting hugs from your mom. How awful is that. Give him one for me, would you? ( \ o / )

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  7. This was an awesome post and such a good reminder of how important touch is for all of us. I happen to be a very hands on kind of girl and love doling out hugs to my family, friends and of course, to my little ones at school. I’m sending my cyber hug to you to now. Keep up the good work. :)

  8. Oh Susan, this is such a powerful post (and so eloquently written as always) as a reminder of what it is like to live the single life. Even when I was married (to my ex) I felt as if I were single for many long years, such was the bad state of my marriage but of course I had my children to love and adore and hug a thousand times a day. I missed that as they grew up. We still hug of course but not in the same way obviously!
    As a very tactile person, and I can tell that you are too, I would miss my cuddles greatly and I can see how hugs from your loving church family bring such warmth and healing into your life. This reminds me of my mum who has lived as a singleton for many years and she often says that she misses those hugs.
    I love how you incorporate the way Jesus used touch as such a powerful healer and the scriptures you share which tell of his marvellous healing.
    I send you a huge hug right now from across the sea and I hope that you can feel it and the love that comes with it, my dear friend :-) x

  9. Oh Susan, this is so wonderful to read and even more warming to be reminded. I read somewhere a few years ago about babies in a neonatal unit in a hospital, who began to respond to treatment because a few nurses volunteered to hold them, touch them.

    I work with the elderly and some of the most vulnerable in my community,sometimes, all I can do is hold a hand or give a hug. It does not make all things right, but for the moment, it makes someone feel like they matter…someone cares.
    I send warm hugs to you this night sis, always know it’s there for you on demand :)

    • Bless you, my caring friend. It does matter, and can really make a day, a week.

      I remember once, decades ago, it had been several months since I had been touched, as I was single and not dating. I visited my doctor, and the moment he put his hand to my face to examine me, I broke out in tears simply because he touched me.

      It does make a difference.

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  11. Will a virtual hug have affect? If only….I send you a hug today. I was thinking of just this very thing yesterday about how it is very important to have physical contact. Failure to thrive has been the death of babies…and probably older people. I think people who live together may forget to hug or have that connection because of taking for granted that the person with whom they live will always be there. I think people are grumpy and mean, too, who have no physical touch given them. As for you getting a dog…that is a wonderful idea. They are so responsive and protective…and they love hugs and to be in your very presence. I know because we have two. I am sending you a big ole Brandon bear hug! He gave good hugs and you knew that you had been hugged.

    • Thanks back, Cole. I so miss human touch sometimes. That’s why, when I get a place of my own, I’m determined to get a shelter dog. I really think most people who have the blessing of human contact every day don’t understand the tremendous lack we feel. One simple touch makes a huge difference in our day.

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