Were you aware there are people in the world who do not like hugs or being touched? It’s hard to comprehend as a native southerner who offers a hug with an introduction; even though my oldest sister would prefer having her nose hairs individually waxed instead of receiving a hug. I wholeheartedly admit I know no boundaries when it comes to hugging, just ask my sister or sweet John Hillary. When he sees me coming, he starts squeezing inside himself preparing for the hug I HAVE to give him. I have a few precious friends gifted in massage, their touch over many occasions has brought me great healing and peace.
One of my favorite professors in college would walk around us as she taught or we took exams and place her hand on our shoulders. I imitated her when I was a teacher, hoping to encourage my students with a hand on their shoulders or a hug when needed. Knowing that not all children have people giving them touches of love. This week I was talking with a friend who recently moved into a senior living facility. She spoke of a young staff person who made it his mission to hug everyone daily. She asked him about it and he said for many residents that is the only touch they receive. Part of the training the Mexico mission team receives explains touch-the good and the bad. Because some children have only experienced touch in a negative form, our natural tendencies to reach out and hug them can do more harm than good. We have learned to ask permission before we hug and rejoice when we not only get to hug, but when hugs are initiated and returned.
Oh, how my heart cried thinking of people missing the human element of touch due to lack of people willing to hug or as a result of trauma. There’s a reason God created our skin to be our biggest organ, filled with touch sensors. These sensors warn us of pain or heat or itchy things and provide a newborn with a sense of belonging, love, and trust that remains with them for life. Scientific studies have shown that touch can be decoded as a form of nonverbal communication across a diversity of developed countries. Touch can communicate tenderness, compassion, anger, love, gratitude, happiness, and fear within seconds. Just the physical act of a kind and warm touch lowers blood pressure and releases the “love hormone,” oxytocin. And it goes both ways, those that give hugs for example, also have a similar physiological reaction.
The Bible gives several accounts of the power of touch.
Mark 6:56 “And wherever he came, in villages, cities, countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Healed, by a touch. Have you experienced a hug that instantly made you feel peace or loved or cherished? Can you even imagine the feeling of being healed by Jesus simply touching you?
Mark 8:22-25 gives another account of Jesus healing by touch. “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eye and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
In Mark 5:28, we read about the woman who had bled for years. “For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
These accounts are about more than physical healing. The spiritual blindness (faith) of those around Jesus was healed as well. The act of touching them proved Who He was in a way that words could not. The way we reach out with a gentle touch or a warm embrace can offer healing and hope and a reminder that we aren’t alone. God created us to be in community where we would use our touch receptors on a regular basis. Keep hugging, keep healing.