“Please don’t touch!”
I snatched my hand back as if the ice-glass sculpture had turned to fire. Dale Chihuly's glass creations invite the forbidden touch. They are always displayed just a touch away. But this was my first experience with his fascinating works of art, and the Jerusalem museum guard firmly set the boundaries. Here I was, a mother who had trained her own children to enjoy but not touch beautiful things, humbled by correction and laughed at by her husband in the bargain!
Abraham Lincoln’s bronze nose has been touched plenty over the years. The bust of the 16th US President sits on a pedestal in front of his tomb in Springfield, Illinois. Visitors are welcomed to rub his nose for good luck, and the resulting shine is testimony to its popularity.
Certain fabrics and soft furs on animals beg to be touched, and the rewarding sensation snuggles into our pleasure centers. Children’s museums are designed for touching. It’s a kid’s natural instinct. I even used to put an array of “please touch” items on my teacher’s desk for students who were waiting their turn for my help.
Touching another person is a different story. These days it’s important to ask permission to touch others. Unwelcomed touch can make people feel uncomfortable or even threatened.
But there are times we are forced to touch others. One Olympic gold medal ice dancing team began working together at age seven. In the beginning the young girl confessed she dreaded even having to hold her teammate's hand! I remember square dancing in gym class at that age, hoping not to be paired with certain boys and praying I’d be lucky enough to hold the hand of a favorite partner.
“I’m not touching!” was a familiar cry from one of my young children. That was a sneaky way to annoy a sibling by being up close but still technically within the boundaries.
Some people are more comfortable than others with being touched physically. It’s important to respect comfort zones. I’ve noticed, however, that most people who are older or who have been sick for a long time crave touching… gentle hugs and hand holds… not the poking and prodding and routine lifting and shoving, no matter how kind the caregiver might be. I taught my fourth graders how to take the aged hands of the people we visited in the senior center. As the children grew more comfortable, I loved watching them rest an arm gently on a stooped shoulder, deep in conversation with their new friend.
No one wants to be startled by a touch. Sparks of static electricity after scuffing across a carpet. A hand that wakes me from a daydream. A word or story that brings up an old wound… touching a nerve. I’d much rather have someone touch my heart with love.
Jesus did a lot of touching… healing… restoring sight and hearing. People would just touch the hem of his garment and the power would flow from Him (Luke 6:19). Imagine having that effect on people!
My favorite Bible lesson really is a touching story. Moms brought their little children to Jesus so He would lay His hands on them and pray for them. I wonder what those mothers were hoping for. Maybe a change in a child’s behavior or a baby finally sleeping through the night? I always try to picture what those little ones looked like… runny noses, dirty hands and faces, tangled locks of hair… typical kids. No wonder the disciples thought it wasn’t a good idea. But Jesus knew His touch was needed because it made them feel important. They had value. They weren’t shoved aside. They were front and center in His attention.
And then there was the ultimate “Please touch!” experience… the disciples encouraged to touch the Risen Savior. “Touch me and see!” (Luke 23:39) Because of those touches they were convinced He was alive and real. Those touches convince me it is really true too!
I know I can’t touch my Lord, but He touches me every day. He does it because it makes me feel important and valued. I am front and center. I have His full attention.
As the old song says, “He touched me! And O the joy that fills my soul.” I wait for Him each day, again and again, asking for myself… “Please touch!”
He’s the one who makes me alive. He’s the one who makes this life real.
And He’s the one who teaches me… how to touch others with His love.
Leaving my guilt at the cross,