Human touch comforts the brokenhearted, electrifies lovers, encourages the defeated, soothes the restless, and cements the bonds of friendship. Touch is vital in the continuing development of a newborn. In all of us, it reduces stress, boosts the immune system, and lowers blood pressure. Both doctors and teachers know the comfort and power of a pat on the back or a hand on the shoulder. Simply put, touch brings healing and peace.
It’s not hard to imagine Satan prowling around the world right now with a Grinch-like smirk as he watches something so pure and simple become so twisted. Sexual harassment in the workplace places employees on constant guard. Covid separated us further than arm’s length. Even in the church, background checks, policy reminders, and safeguards have become standard procedure for those working with children. Many of these precautions have been a long time coming and no doubt prevented many sad scenarios. Yet, I wonder if there is a carryover effect in our personal relationships. Have we become so accustomed to a touchless society that we fail to reach out even to those we love most?
All of the children in my life teach me so much. They constantly remind me that simple things mean the most. My two-year-old granddaughter instinctively knows the two simple words that have always and will continue to stop me in my tracks. When she’s tired or hurt, sad or afraid, or even after she’s done something wrong, her sweet little face looks up looks up at me as she leans in, and she says the words I long to hear, “Hold you?” Just a few seconds of being held makes it all better.
Jesus modeled the importance of paying attention and taking time out to actually see and touch those in our circle of influence. “One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’ And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.” (Matthew 19:13-15, NLT)
Helping family and friends shift from a season of chaos to one of peace begins by paying attention long enough to offer a simple touch. After all, as the poet Keats wrote, “touch has a memory.” Words of encouragement are best remembered when spoken with a hand on the shoulder, a pat on the hand, or a gentle squeeze of the arm. It’s as if the words of comfort meant for the ears are rerouted by the hand and sent straight to the heart.
All around our world, gentle hands of peace and healing have distorted into angry fists. Warm embraces meant for unity have turned into shoving matches. Good-natured pats on the back have become ill-tempered slaps across the face. As individual Christians, we can’t swallow the whole world’s camel of discord, but together, we have the power to change the world if we break our response into bite-sized pieces.
We can extend the same gentleness and peace Jesus offered the little children to those around us. Take a good look at your spouse. Could he/she use some gentle affection? Are the children in your world in need of some reassurance? What about your dearest friends? Do they need some of your time and attention? I ask these questions of myself for I am the guiltiest of all for not paying attention to the needs of others.
Many of those closest to you and me are either tired or hurt, sad or afraid, or have done something wrong. They are looking to see if anyone will take the time to notice. They are leaning in and looking up. Maybe we should ask them one simple, childlike question – “Hold you?”
As we begin focusing our attention on those closest to us, everyone involved gains the skills needed to begin focusing on those outside our circles. This is exactly how Jesus did it! He first focused on His small group of disciples. Then He developed an inner circle of friendship with Peter, James, and John. Finally, by encouraging, teaching, and modeling gentleness, love, and peace He used this small tribe to change the world – one bite at a time.
We have the same Master Teacher who willingly holds us in the palm of His hand. He wants YOU in His inner circle of friendship because He knows the power of your influence. You don’t have to change the whole world, but you can change yours with one touch at a time.
So, this week, look up to your Father and lean in closer. Whisper the words He longs to hear from you, “Hold you?”
“I am the Lord your God, who holds your right hand,
who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.”
(Isaiah 41:13, CSB)