Someone I know recently had a baby born prematurely. The little fellow only weighs about three pounds and thus must stay in the ICU until he is strong enough to go home. The hospital has what they call “touch time” when the parents can hold their baby.
If I were in this situation, I think it would be excruciatingly difficult to be separated from a new born. I would want to camp out at the hospital nursery until the security people had to drag me away. Because we all need touch and babies do especially.
Now I know the hospital does a great job ensuring that this need gets met through extensive staff and volunteers when family members are not allowed or able to intervene around the clock. But this situation has made reflect much on the need for touch in our lives.
At my house, my cats INSIST on touch time. Sometimes they are okay with sitting on my lap while I work on the computer or read but other times, they want my undivided attention during touch time – like this morning when one came and sat on my lap and the other sprawled out over my chest making it impossible for me to continue with the book I was reading. And if I’m not around much, they get increasingly frenetic until we can sit and be truly present with one another, which is what touch helps foster: just being.
So how do humans get their needs for touch met if they are not little babies or in a significant romantic relationship? And is touch merely a physical phenomenon or does it entail a sense of the otherworldly as well?
I’m currently researching commentaries on Exodus 34:29-35, the passage where Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and his face shines after being in the presence of the Lord. I think this is an extraordinary text because it addresses the fact that we as humans are touched in many ways. We can be touched through the hands of other humans, the feel of the sun on our skin or through the rhythms of our own breath. But even more profound, we can be touched by the Presence of the Lord. And like the baby in the ICU or my cats, I think we long for this contact with our Maker even when we don’t realize it. We long to be held in the arms of the love of the Divine. And we long to touch each other when we have felt the grace and radiance of God ourselves.