Today’s guest post is a blinder – and it’s from a very dear friend, Jeanette Howard. It struck a chord with me; and I think it will with you too.
I am single and I live alone. I am now into my 12th day of no physical contact with another human being. Not that I’m counting. Much. I don’t even have a pet to connect with; something that breathes and moves and takes notice of your presence. Feeding and watching my goldfish is not quite hitting the mark.
Neither of my parents were tactile and I was 23 years old when I saw them hug one another for the first time. I was so shocked at this overt expression of affection that the scene is embedded in my memory. They lived through WWII and I’m convinced that experience stunted them emotionally contributing, most certainly, to my own feelings of loss and abandonment as a child resulting in an insatiable longing for meaningful touch. Only the slow growth of an increasing intimacy with the Lord has gradually transformed this cavernous black hole of need into a well-lit, although often shadowy, dwelling place.
Skin hunger or touch deprivation is real. A person’s sense of touch develops in the womb as early as seven or eight weeks old. We are wired for human contact – and this enforced isolation is causing me to expand my thinking on the creation story in Genesis.
The variety of animals that God had created were great, but they weren’t suitable for Adam (Genesis 2:18, 2:20). In other words, they were not his counterpart. To date, I had only considered this to be in reason, emotion, spirituality, and of course, procreation. But perhaps God also recognised that, despite all the animals he could care for, Adam couldn’t flourish without human touch.
Meaningful touch produces the hormones oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that all help counteract the stress hormone, cortisol. Together they stabilise one’s overall sense of well-being and psychological stability.
Meaningful touch is the blue touch paper that ignites an explosion of wellness.
This is nothing to do with sensuality or sexual expression. It’s a God-given way of producing a sense of belonging and being connected to an other:
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
While God clearly calls some to be married, for others like me, this is not the case. But we can all be a helper suitable for our faith family. In this period of enforced isolation, I’m relying on sunlight, exercise, protein enriched food, Classic FM – and filling my thoughts with the things of God. But I have a new appreciation for the touch I have lost.
Until 5 days ago, “zoom” meant whizzing along at breakneck speed towards something. Now it’s the App that keeps me in contact with people I once sat next to, hugged, jostled with, and leaned upon. When this epidemic is finally over, here’s what I will do. I shall shake hands more meaningfully, hug more often, offer reassuring touch on someone’s arm or shoulder and welcome any toddler or child who wants to use me as a climbing frame or soft play area! I’m also booking in for a long massage.
Touch cannot be overestimated. As someone once said, you don’t know what you have until it is taken away.
Jeanette Howard is a Christian author and speaker, based in the UK.