I have a good friend who is a therapeutic masseuse. We once had a conversation about a changing trend in massage therapy, a move toward deep tissue massage. Unlike Swedish massage which is softer and gentler, deep tissue massage is intense and can border on painful. My friend had an interesting observation and hypothesis for this change. She believed that people were becoming more numb to touch, thus needing a more penetrating massage to even feel anything. Why are people becoming more numb? Perhaps it is overstimulation from extreme multitasking, or our lack of meaningful physical interaction with other people. I don’t know and neither did she, but even now that conversation haunts me. Are we so numb that we cannot feel the touch of God?
(Image courtesy of aranarch.blogspot.com)
How do we even know the touch of God?
Is it the arm that wraps around us when we cry and mourn?
Is it the hand that shakes ours during the passing of the peace in worship?
Is it the finger with anointing oil that traces the sign of the cross on our forehead?
Is it the feeling of the Communion elements in our stomachs?
Is it in the baby who wraps their entire hand around our single finger?
Is it in the water that washed away our sin?
Is it in the heaviness of the hands laid upon us during a blessing?
Is it in the hands clasped in prayer?
Yes, and many other places as well. I feel the touch of God in the thumping of the bass from sacred music, reverberating in my chest. I feel the touch of God in the warmth of a smile that spreads across the face of a church member I’m visiting in the hospital. I feel the touch of God in the tingle I get when my son says my name when he wakes up. I feel the touch of God when I see injustice and righteous anger rushes over me. I feel the touch of God when my hand grazes another as I give someone the Body of Christ during Communion. I feel the touch of God when I place my hand upon the warm, sturdy wood of the coffin as I commend it to the earth.
We need to stop being so numb to the pervasiveness of God’s touch all around us. It comes to us through others, through our brief interludes. There was once a time when we thirsted to touch God, to feel God’s healing touch:
“[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him” (Mark 3:9-10 NRS).
We must realize that not only to we need to feel the touch of God, but others need to feel it through us. Only then will we realize how connected we are to one another. How vital you are to me.