What I lovingly call my grandson because at the ripe old age of seven months he is only content in his mother’s arms.
Peace and comfort are found in her touch.
One of the baby's foundational needs (second only to food, sleep, and a diaper change) is touch.
It turns out that touch plays a crucial role in the growth and health of the body and mind. Research shows that infants who are not held and touched enough will stop growing and if the situation persists, despite receiving nutrition and other care will die.
Important because touch is the first sensory system in a child’s life, it signals that they are safe and provides them with the ability to manage stress. Vital for life and development.
In adults, positive touch releases oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure, decreases stress/anxiety, may help to alleviate depression and increases pain tolerance.
Contrary to the positives associated with touch, our culture shies away from physical contact and seems to view “personal space” as an art form. In most settings, touching is taboo, and we frown upon any physical contact with the unfamiliar.
We are losing the valuable power of touch.
The simple truth is God made us physical beings for a reason and gave us our largest organ (skin) that has thousands of sensors to act as our antenna, shield, and communicator.
We were designed to be nourished, healed and comforted by the act of touch!
So, when did we turn touching into something bad and why have we forgotten the power of a simple caress?
I find it fascinating that Jesus himself used touch routinely. He used touch to heal, and he also used touch to convey his love for others.
Consider Jesus lovingly washing his disciples’ feet!
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." – John 13:3-15
Jesus could have used another method for teaching his disciples about humility and service. But, He selected the means of personal touch!
Jesus also used touch to heal—
"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 of his leprosy." – Matthew 8:2-3
Let’s be honest, how many of us would wash our friends’ feet or touch a person with a disease?
You may say, “I’m not a touchy-feely kind’of person” but friend, you are missing out on the healing power of giving AND receiving touch!
It is a call that Jesus commanded when he said: "you should wash one another's feet."
So, what does this "command" look like today?
Being mindful of others around you- where do they have a need?
How can you walk beside them and be a physical presence?
How can you give and receive touch today?
Practical ways of positive touching:
Placing your hand on someone’s shoulder who is struggling.
Greet someone with a hug.
Pat someone on the back or give a "high five."
Cuddle with your spouse, child or pet.
Hold hands (spouse, child, parent, grandparent or friend.)
Get a professional massage (can’t recommend this enough!)
Get a manicure/pedicure.
Take a class (yoga and pilates sometimes offer hands-on adjustments by the instructors.)
Touch given in a positive way can bring God’s love, comfort, and healing to yourself and others!
Never underestimate the gift of touch!
Father, open our eyes to others & be mindful of their condition. May we be confident in our ability to offer positive touch and follow your command to love. You designed us to be physical creatures that require the gift of touch in our lives. Help us to freely give and reach it!- Amen
“Then Jesus held the children in his arms. He laid his hands on them and blessed them.” – Mark 10:16