In my late twenties I worked at the Empire State Building, I was a plumber. All day everyday I’d ride the elevators going from service call to service call. There is an unspoken protocol to elevator riding in New York City. The rules were simple; everyone faced forward, everyone watched the ascending or descending numbers, no one spoke and absolutely no one touched, ever! It didn’t matter how many people were jammed into that elevator, there was at least a millimeter of space between you and the strangers around you. For far too many people this description is sadly reminiscent of their experience in the American church. No touching allowed.
At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, In other words, God touching Earth. God could have established a new covenant any way he wanted to, he chose to take our form and live among us. Just like the leper in Mark chapter one, Jesus chose to rescue us by touching us. Then why are we, as his followers so afraid of touching one another? No doubt it’s because we’ve been touched before and it wounded us.
Touch truly is an amazing gift from God. He has perfectly equipped us for it. My entire body is cover with skin and nerve ending that can sense even the slightest increase of pressure, the smallest fluctuation of temperature or the subtlest of changes in texture. Emotionally I can be touched deeply by a well written novel, a hug from my children or a kiss from my wife. Movies like Braveheart or Saving Private Ryan speak to me and have touched my soul in profound ways. Throughout my life music has had the amazing ability to navigate past even my strongest defenses and leave its lasting impression upon my heart. Yes, God has designed us for touch. As part of his magnificent design God has created us to interact physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Oh God, heal the wounds that isolate us from one another. Grant us courage to risk again, to reach out and touch again and allow ourselves to be touched, amen.
More thoughts on touch to come…
© Tom Zawacki 2006