Last week, I left my office worn out, tired and in a very “down” mood. To be honest, I felt like crying. I wasn’t really that upset about anything that happened at work or elsewhere. My mood wasn’t about task and obligations. No, after several weeks of burying myself in work and way too many evening and weekend commitments, I was feeling overwhelmed. Driving home, I realized that what I needed was the comfort that comes from being touched, from being held.
Now, my second Love Language is physical touch but no matter where touch falls on your love language scale, my need wasn’t unusual. Physical touch is important and among our most basic of human needs. When met, our bodies release oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin (the “feel good” chemicals) and cortisol, the stress hormone, is inhibited. The benefits of touch include lowered stress, pain and inflammation. Our immune systems strengthen, we relax, and we may experience less symptoms of anxiety and depression. In other words, humans are generally healthier, both physically and emotionally, when appropriately and generously touched.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the first touch recorded in the Bible occurs when God used His hands to create humans. Whereas the other steps of creation were spoken into existence, with humans it was different. The experience was close, personal and hands-on. In Genesis 1:26, God decides to make humankind “in our image, after our likeness.” The word “make” implies crafting with one’s hands. Adam is formed from the dust of the ground, and Eve is created or made from Adam’s rib, molded by God.
The power of touch continues in the New Testament. Time and time again we see examples of Jesus touching people and allowing others to touch Him. Through touch Jesus makes lepers, who were said to be untouchable, whole. He restored sight to the blind and gave life to those who were dead. There is even the story about a woman who was healed when she touched the hem of His robe. Jesus freely welcomes children into His arms. And there is the time when He told the disciples, including a doubting Thomas, to touch the wounds.
We need physical touch, and we have a model in Jesus of what is appropriate, generous and pure, so what do we do? Maybe we should just reach out and touch someone…