The Ministry of Touch

“Your hand touch mine, this is how galaxies collide.” _Sanober Khan

Recently I dropped Sonja off at the St. Louis airport and she boarded a plane bound for South Carolina to visit family.  

That meant I spent a week “batching it” which is loosely defined as temporarily playing the role of a bachelor because your spouse is away. 

I must say, unlike my original bachelor days, the week spent alone was much quieter and tamer, and I was much more responsible.  (Seems I have matured a bit.  I even bathed regularly and ate reasonably healthy.)

I also enjoyed my temporary bachelorhood far less (way far less!) than those halcyon college days and was extremely glad to have Sonja back in the fold when the time came to welcome her back home.

Later that night, in the early hours of the morning, as I so often do, I reached over and touched Sonja. It felt good to have her back home.  

It was at that moment that it occurred to me that for the entire week that Sonja was gone I did not touch another human being.  I had lived an entire week of my life without human touch.  Oh there had been people in my life but as far as human touch…nada. 

And that reminded me of the “till death do we part” clause in our marriage covenant and the realization that there would come a time when one of us would go the rest of our lives without experiencing the other’s touch.

Needless to say, it took me a little while to get back to sleep.

The science is clear…healthy human maturity and well-being requires human touch. 

In my years as a pastor I developed some core convictions about this that I never wavered on.  I trained my staff who were responsible for visiting people in the hospital or extended care/nursing facilities to always touch the people they visited.  Maybe it was holding their hand while you talked to them or gently laying your hand on their arm or their shoulder as you prayed for them but in some way the people under our care had to have a touch from a fellow human being who cared…this was a non-negotiable.

On Sundays I always had a moment carved out in the service where I encouraged my congregation to get out of their seats and go to several people and hug them or shake their hands and give them a compliment or word of encouragement.  I made it more than a perfunctory duty by reminding them that it was an opportunity to minister to one another.  I reminded them that our church was the only place where many ever received a loving human touch and encouraging word during their entire week.

Think about it…

So many lonely, hurting, and empty people out there.  What would it cost you to give them a gentle touch and a kind word.  Maybe a pat on the back, a light touch on the arm or a meaningful handshake or hug.  Of course these things have to be handled appropriately and wisely, but the ministry of touch is a ministry that needs to be celebrated and practiced.

And…if you have found yourself now living in that lonely realm of touchlessness it may be that you have to take the initiative.  You be the first to extend a hand and offer a word of hope and encouragement.  You be the one to bridge the vast gulf between us all and extend a healing hand.  It could mean the world – for them and for you.

The ONE THING for today: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. (Proverbs 3:27)

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