The Lesson of the Touch

TouchSeven months following the ministry weekend prayer that changed the direction of my life (See The Lesson of the Illumination), I attended a faith conference in my quest to learn more about the Truth of God. While my husband fulfilled a previous commitment elsewhere, I attended the event alone, just as God often arranges for me to be when He wants my full attention.

During a meal break, I was sitting in an aisle seat near the back left corner of a sparsely populated auditorium. Deep in thought, I paid little attention to the woman walking up the side aisle, until she squeezed by me to sit next to me.

The dark skinned woman, about my age, wore a beautiful multicolored floor-length robe and head turban. When she spoke, her words revealed an accent that I did not recognize. Looking into my eyes, she seemed to choose her words carefully, saying, “I believe that God wants me to pray for you.”

Humbled by anyone praying for me, I was overwhelmed to have God send a stranger. As the woman spoke, telling me that God had healed her of AIDS, her voice and mannerisms conveyed a compassion that suggested a personal knowledge of God’s grace that far exceeded my own.

When she finished speaking, she hesitated briefly, and then rose. Squeezing by me again, she began walking back down the aisle. But after taking only a few steps, she hesitated again, turned around and returned to the seat beside me. Laying her hand upon mine, she spoke with soothing compassion. “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay to touch people when you pray for them.” My only response was a flow of tears down my cheeks, for I knew without doubt that this was God, not the woman, speaking to me.

The message that she delivered was one of a loving and compassionate God of merciful grace, who imparts healing and restoration. Even in knowing that I needed both, I remained ignorant of the extent of my need. But God knew. He knows full well my every need, and He would not miss the opportunity to supply what I needed that day, at that time, thanks to a willing messenger.

Understanding the precise nature of our brokenness, God continually draws us, touching us with the compassionate mercy that we need. We are never out of His limitless reach. With ever-open arms, He awaits our willingness to accept His embrace again and again. Each time that we do, we receive more of the wholeness that He has for us in Christ Jesus. Wholeness only comes from God, who alone fulfills us. Without Him, we remain but pieces of our potential.

As exemplified by the commitment of the father of the prodigal son to his son’s welfare (See Luke 15:11-32), God is fully committed to ours. He wants only to bless us, never to curse us, even when we go our own way.

When the prodigal son left home, his father knew that he would eventually be confronted, as we all are, by the consequences of self-proclaimed independence. So, in love, the father fattened a calf, unable to do no less than prepare for a celebration of his son’s homecoming that he could only hope would one day occur.

The celebration, though, could not take place until the son, unable to continue fooling himself, would humbly decide to confess his wrong thinking to his father. By honoring his father, the son would gift himself, enabling his father to honor him with restoration to his family.

When the ever-watchful father first glimpsed his son’s return, he ran unabashedly to meet his son with open arms. Fully embraced, the son received his father’s love—a love revealed in his father’s great relief for his son’s wellbeing. Kissing his son, the father restored his son’s dignity by returning his son’s identity to him. In the receiving of a robe, a ring and sandals from his father, the son received his true inheritance:  his father’s heart—a gift that could never be squandered, but would only grow with time, forever increasing the son’s inheritance.

Not unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the son would learn that everything that he needed had always been his. His search for what he wanted would lead him nowhere but home.

To our shame, we sometimes make poor choices in life, departing from our Heavenly Father’s ways, searching for glitz that is fool’s gold and bankrupting our hearts. But to our Father’s glory, He offers us forgiveness before we ask, bestowing true and lasting treasure upon us in His compassionate, merciful grace. Whether we wander a far distance or near, our Father is always watchful, waiting with outstretched arms for us to turn to His embrace, wanting to delight us in His lavished goodness. His compassion is endless; His mercy without limit; His love unfailing.

Embodying God’s love, Jesus is the Hands of God’s Restoration Ministry that reaches out to restore a needy, hurting world. “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” (John 3:35)  Everything and everyone…

And so, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23), extending God’s love to every man, woman and child who would ever live. No one exceeds His reach.

No one is too defiled:

“A man with leprosy came to [Jesus] and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” (Mark 1:40-42)

No one is too troublesome:

“…some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’…  Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:22b-23, 25)

No one is too incapacitated:

“When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sicknesses, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” (Luke 4:40)

No one is too bound:

“On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” (Luke 13:10-13)

No one is too hopeless:

“As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow… When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying him stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (Luke 7:12a, 13-15)

No one is too distraught:

“While [Jesus] was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 8:5-8)

No one is too unworthy:

“[Judas] approached Jesus to kiss him… When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:47b, 49-51)

No one is too unimportant:

“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me….’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” (Matthew 19:13-14a, 15)

With every touch of Jesus, hearts and minds are opened more fully to the Truth of God. Compassion overcomes suffering, and wholeness overcomes brokenness. Faithfully delivering the message entrusted to Him:  “Grace, Peace and Mercy from the Father’s Love” (See 2 John 1:3), Jesus infuses His compassion into our hearts, further healing and transforming them into greater likenesses of their Parent Heart.

On the day when the woman sat down beside me, God increased my awareness that my heart was not all that He had designed it to be. Without the plumb line of the Father’s Heart in Christ Jesus, we can deceive ourselves about our hearts. We aren’t always able to see the fears or pride existing in them. Neither are we always aware of misappropriated feelings of unworthiness, disappointment, despair and other negative emotions. Additionally, illness, infirmity, poverty and other worldly problems may encroach upon what is left of our hearts; for our hearts, as well as our minds, are continually bombarded by the concerns of this world.

As I sat in the auditorium with the woman’s hand on mine, the tears that I shed were from personal shame. In addition to the shaking of Parkinson’s disease that wrongly restrained me, I knew that if our positions were reversed, I would not have placed my hand on hers, thinking that she may have AIDS. Aware that such a decision would have been nothing short of fear-driven selfishness, I could do no less than admit to myself my own self-limited compassion for others. God already had my number; and now that I knew, the jig was up.

By revealing a piece of my heart to me that day, God disarmed the self-deception that had prevailed, returning the freedom that I needed to act in accordance with His will, living His way.

As the Body of Christ on Earth, our hands are Christ’s Hands—hands that are to be used only for good, never for evil, including the evil of failing to do good. Awareness of our enabling to be His Hands comes when our hearts experience His compassion, empowering us to live beyond ourselves.

As Christians, we have the Power of God residing in us and with us, as well as acting for us and through us. We are never helpless. While all prayer is powerfully life transforming, prayer for others that is accompanied by touch through the laying on of hands contains a physical element of acceptance that delivers the spiritual reality of God’s love through an act that tangibly confesses oneness in Christ. Touch draws us into greater recognition of our spiritual unity with one another, further opening our hearts and minds to greater awareness of the Father’s love for all. The result is greater overall restoration, with the love of God flowing more freely in every direction. Touch is a God-designated means of tangibly connecting us one to another in this world as the Body of Christ, delivering Holy Spirit power through our responsive obedience to reach out to share with others the love that God has for all.

Jesus expects us to believe in and appreciate the power of touch, as did both the woman with the issue of blood, who reached out to touch Jesus (Matthew 9:20-22), and Mary, who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair in worship of Him (John 12:3). Touch forms a two-way connection that enables both giving and receiving. To “successfully” touch others as God intends, we must first be in touch with Jesus ourselves, receiving from Him and returning to Him our worship of Him:  thanksgiving for His outstretched arms that have been extended to a hurting world by the immeasurable love of God for all.

When the woman in the auditorium had finished delivering God’s message to me, she quietly got up and started back down the side aisle. I glanced down only briefly—a few moments, but when I looked back up, I could no longer see her. The exits were behind me, and her brightly colored garb should have been easy to spot. But even though I looked for her the remainder of the evening, I never saw her again.

Who she was and where she came from, I don’t know. But she fulfilled duties of both angels and saints, delivering both God’s message and His compassion to an individual who was in need of receiving both.

May we—the entire Body of Christ—do likewise, touching every body and soul with the compassionate outreach that is ours in Christ Jesus to freely give. (See Matthew 10:8)

And should there be any doubt regarding the power of touch or its necessity, just ask Jesus to provide a tangible touch of proof.

He will, defeating every objection… pierced hands down, every time.

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“…they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:18c)

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