The Power of Touch

I’m beginning a new series on the people who Jesus touched.  I’ll begin with a personal story — and though it does not come from scripture, I could sense Jesus’ presence all the same.

I don’t touch people.  Except for immediate family, I regularly go hours and days without touching another person.  Handshakes, pat on the back, hug, high-five, fist bump, chest bump, you get the idea.  Nope.  None of it.  Not me.  This isn’t a point of pride for me.  I don’t have an objection to physical contact.  Touching just isn’t a part of my normal behavior.  The absence of touch is my default behavior.

This past summer, I experienced something that made me wonder if I’ve been missing out on something — if I have a previously unnoticed and unsatisfied need to be touched. 

In July, my wife and I visited the third service at the Rochester Church of Christ.  I had been told that the third service was going to be more unconventional, shall we say, than Dana and I might be used to.  We tried to come in with no expectations.  (I’ll be honest though — I was hoping for some small glimpse of what makes this church family special.)

From what I can tell, the church at Rochester typically treats communion (aka the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist) as the climax of the morning.  On this day, the emblems (cracker & juice) were placed at three or four stations around the auditorium.  Everyone was invited to come to one of these stations at their own pace.  A pair of volunteer staff people were standing at each of these stations to greet, pray, and talk with each person, as appropriate.  (All this is notably different than what we are used to.  It wasn’t an issue for us.  Just a different practice.)

My wife and I queued up for the station nearest us.  As we approached the front of the line, I observed the husband/wife couple for our station.  They seemed to be nice people: wearing a smile, shaking hands, saying things like “it’s good to see you”, etc.  Sometimes, they visited for a moment.  Mostly though, it was a lot of smiles and warmth.  They hugged many of the people, who I supposed were friends or people they’ve known for a while.

Then it was our turn.  The man clasped my hand between both of his, looked me in the eye, smiled, and said that he was glad to see me.  I think he may have even meant it.  His wife came to me, said something similar, and threw her arms around me to give me a hug.

We made it through the rest of the process and returned to our seats, where I people-watched the rest of the communion time.  Every single person that morning was touched.  It may not have been a hug, but every person was touched.  (Well, except for the one or two people that went out of their way to sneak in to take communion without being noticed.  If you didn’t want to be touched, they couple at the station weren’t going to tackle you, apparently.)  I think it’s impressive that this all seemed very heart-felt.  Not programmed.  Not regimented.  Not ritualized.  It seemed genuine — the faces all around reflected that, too.

The reason why this experience has stuck with me is that I got a glimpse of the power of human touch.  I could rightly be accused of being overly dramatic if I said that I felt accepted unconditionally, loved unconditionally, and welcomed with open arms that morning.  But I definitely felt a glimpse of all those things.

Like I said earlier: other than immediately family, I might go several days without physically touching another person.  That’s the way I am.  That’s the way I think my culture is.  I think I’m very comfortable in a culture where people don’t touch each other.  And that is exactly why that morning at Rochester was so memorable for me.  It was abnormal.  It was almost like these people were family — like they considered me to be family.

It was something special to me.  Like this was the kind of warmth that I’ve always dreamt that Christ meant for us to offer each other.

Stay tuned as we explore the special moments when Jesus touched people in his day….

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