The Ministry of Touch in the Home

Photo by Linnea Herner on

Touch connects us to our surroundings. Touch is what makes everything real. Thomas, a disciple of Jesus refused to believe that Jesus was truly alive until he saw and touched his Master. “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe'” John 20:25. So many things we hear about are far less real to us until we see and touch them. Touch is how we experience reality. We humans are strongly connected to the physical world through our sense of touch.

Have you ever sat on your foot and realized you have cut off the circulation to it? Although you can see it, it is very difficult to orient where your foot is in the world. Yes, it is still attached to your leg, but it feels unfamiliar and awkward. It nearly impossible to even to take a step until the nerves in the foot have recovered. It is times like those that we realize how important our sense of touch is! Without feeling, we cannot even connect to the floor.

Some people struggle more than others with where they are in relation to the world. And some people struggle more at different times in their lives.

People who struggle with connection to the world are many and it is good for us who minister with our homes to be aware of people who might be in extra need of tenderness as they are in our home.

Older folk are weaker in body and have slower reflexes, balance, and a nervous system that is often concentrated on bodily pain. For many older folks, connecting to surroundings is crucial to keep from stumbling. They also live in a sense of feeling misunderstood, and disconnected with others as their mental and physical states slows down. It is needful for us to have things for older folks to grab onto..handrails on steps, a bar by the toilet and in the shower (especially if we have long term or frequent elderly folks staying in our home). For short term older visitors, such accommodations may not be necessary, but we should be conscious of placement during seating. I have found a chair with two arms is often easier for an older person to get out of, rather than a plush sofa. So, we could kindly direct our frail guests to the safer furniture in the room if they should prefer it. When my aging parents come to visit, my Daddy often prefers sitting on the floor to a sofa, it is less painful on his back and easier to get up from. Sometimes, elderly folk need a firm mattress because they cannot get out of a bed where they sink in too far. It is good just to be mindful of the things our weaker friends and family may find helpful to grab or rest.

Other people who may struggle with bodily awareness in this world is anyone who struggles with a physical or mental condition. Nerves can simply be wired inside the body in a way that causes weakness, numbness, discomfort, dizziness, uncoordinated, and mental strain. Various nerve re-wires can occur in multitudes of ways, sometimes before birth, from an injury, disease, hormonal imbalances, medications, or even high amounts of stress. We should be sensitive toward those in our home who might need a little extra physical connection, or a little less physical connection. This isn’t always easy to know with new friends, but it is something we should learn about others quickly so we can adequately minister to their souls in our home as best as we are able.

All children struggle exponentially more than most adults with their connection to the world because a child is not only continually growing, but still developing bodily awareness. No wonder a child will stumble and fall countless times a day. As a keeper of the home, showing grace over accidents is invaluable. Milk spills, bowls break, and ankles twist when a person’s height increases an inch over a month’s time. It is also crucial that I reach out to these little souls who are still developing a spiritual awareness and wrap my arms around them. They need snuggles, kisses, and hugs to thrive in their lives and to feel not only my love poured out on them, but learn to connect better to God as they experience the unconditional, sacrificial love of another real human being holding them tight.

As a wife, making a point to reach out to my husband in touch is crucial. As a married couple, we are sharing the most amazing connection a human can have with another. We are one person. It is hard for either of us to feel like one beating heart, if our hands never hold each others hand. We married folk need to be physically close…we pass each other in the hall and connect with a kiss.  I have incredible power to minister and bless the soul of my husband by simply stroking his hair. He can calm my troubles soul with a long, understanding hug. Physical touch has a powerful way of binding souls together, and love language or not, touch is absolutely essential in marriage.

The sense of touch is essential to all humans. I believe people who did not grow up in a nurturing home, truly struggle all their lives with relationships. Relationships and people are not real because through childhood a person had little to no hands on connection with a person who loves them…no snuggles, no hugs and kisses, no pats on the back or brushing away of tears. No wonder relationships seem unreal… disconnected. Those who live alone may go for weeks, even months without ever connecting with another human through touch. I was told by a dear friend who ministers in nursing homes, that the elderly are particularly left untouched, and a hug means more to them than life itself. Those of us mothers who are surrounded by young children in constant need of affection can easily take for granted the connection we have to other people.

As part of developing a nurturing environment in the home for soul to find rest and joy in God, I find touch is crucial. Contact with other humans is not the only aspect of touch that should be considered. I noted a few ways I like to consider the affects the sense of touch might have in our home as I continually seek to use the home as a tool to minister to the soul and bring souls into a place of worship and deeper understanding of their loving Father.

Human Touch is probably the most important form of touch in our home. Why does a child in distress run to his Mama? Yes, a verbal consolation may take place, but what is really needed is a spot on Mama’s lap and Mama’s arms wrapped around his sobbing body. He needs touch to help heal his sad heart feel better, and he knows it. We don’t really try hard to connect with our children with snuggles, hugs, and kisses. It has always come very naturally for both myself and my husband. Honestly, I can’t stop kissing those sweet chubby cheeks! But I do notice that if I am having a busy day, I am less prone to try to reach out to my children’s emotional needs through a cuddle. It is hard for any mother to jump into affection when her mind is busy checking lists. So, I am certainly working on being aware of my children’s needs even when stress is high in our home.

A hug, a pat on the shoulder does so much to bring comfort to souls. A touch says, “I acknowledge you are real and what you are going through is real.” A touch says, “I see you.” A touch says, “I am here, I am a human with you.” A touch says, “you are not alone.” The power of human contact has been studied extensively. It is incredible the affect it has on the development of a new-born. Touching people brings people together in a way that nothing else can do. People need to connect with each other through the physical world of touch. Touch allows us Christians to open gentle pathways with other humans from this real physical world of senses, to the real world of eternity that cannot even be imagined.

When we have guests over we make a point to connect with them, a handshake for the guys and a shoulder hug for us women is a typical greeting in our culture. It welcomes our friends and makes them felt “seen” as well as provides that connection to them in our home. Without it, they might feel a little lost. There have been times I have missed that moment in our greeting and felt a discomfort as our guests try to feel out where there place is in our home. When there are large groups or several families gathering, it is easy to let greetings slide as people come and go and I get caught up in the kitchen or another conversation. This is an area I am still working on, but certainly I am trying to purpose to greet each guest…even each child (Little Who’s Are People Too) as they come in the doors of our home.
Creature affections are probably the next best thing to human affection. We have a sweet outdoor cat. I know many folks find their spirits are greatly soothed by simply petting a cat. A puppy will probably be in our future. Part of the reason for a dog in our home would be for touch. A good dog will invite touch and acknowledges others by showing unbiased affection through the sense of touch. Animals are great at soothing our souls and providing companionship and someone to talk to for those who live alone. Yes, they can be maintenance, but very often, it is worth the time and expense for the way a creature can be a blessing in the home. I have couple friends who have had a serious head injury. As a result, their doctor prescribed a pet to help relieve stress and help them recover. The main reason a doctor prescribes a therapy animal is touch. By coming into contact with another living creature, stress is relived and nerves are soothed. Touch is very grounding.

Heat and Cold should be set comfortably. I find as I grow older, my body temperature changes. Babies and elderly folks tend to need the house a little warmer than the average individual. When we have guests with very young or of grey hair, I make sure to add extra blankets to the bed, or at least point our guests to where they can get one. Keeping the house comfortable, not too hot or cold is helpful as we converse with others, it is one less distraction we and those we converse with have as we fellowship.

Warmth can also be a very sweet feature in the cold of winter. The warmth of a fireplace or a soft robe or blanket. Helping our friends and family members snuggle and find rest in tje warmth of the home can bring some treasured chats over cups of warm cocoa.

Cold, of course is welcomed in the heat of summer. Iced lemonade, a soft breeze through an open window, or ice-cream in a cone…I find offsetting the season with colder treats somehow brings balance.

Earth and nature are very important to touch. I love to see my children run barefoot through the grass. It seems so natural…real. There are studies on the subject of connection to the earth with our bodies. One of my favorite author’s, Charlotte Mason, notes that it is important for children to run and play outdoors as much as possible. Besides blossoming their imagination and love for learning, being outdoors helps children to develop coordination, strong bones and muscles, and learn where they are in relation to the world, simply by placing their feet on the ground for hours a day. . . or up a tree… Grounding brings confidence, peace, and ease. We need to touch earth, plant something, walk in bare-feet, picnic on the grass… I find touch essential to my soul. I personally need to take the time to connect with the rest of the creation God made. I need to take time to feel the wind blow across my face, the warm sun hit my back, the wet morning grass lick my feet, and mud ooze between my toes. A homemaker can garden, plant things, play with children in bar feet, picnic, and make time for enjoying the feel of all God made and sharing that with others. We grownups need to rejoice in the earth God made, just as much as a child does. It makes my heart fill with awe as though God Himself is reaching out and touching me through His Creation. 

Touch is the gospel. Touch is humanity. Touch is God coming to us in a human form. Touch is God healing our souls.

Another Story About God

After hearing a preacher speak at an evangelistic meeting at our small Baptist church in the country, I asked my mother to pray with me to ask Jesus to forgive my sins. I was seven. I do not remember a thing about that moment, other than the story has been told to me by my mother long enough to create its own memory. At seven, I didn’t know the extent of my sins, only that I did bad things. At seven, I didn’t understand the extent of what Christ did in my place on the cross or even what “the gospel” truly meant. I only understood Jesus loved me and died on the cross for me because I was a sinner, and I also knew I did not want to go to hell when I died. Like many children raised in Christian homes, the thought of hell terrified me; along with the guilt I felt due to my sins. My thoughts of hell and my feelings of guilt brought many whispered prayers in the night…often asking Jesus that, “if I wasn’t already saved and forgiven, that He would forgive me now.”

The small Baptist church we attended was a classic in its time, every sermon ended with an alter call, the choir was the place to display one’s musical gifts, and people dressed up for church like it was a social event. Sadly that is all church was to most people. Many of my Sunday School teachers did not know much doctrine beyond what was presented in the Regular Baptist Press Sunday School curriculum. I remember once asking my Sunday School teacher why God created me. She seemed a little surprised by my question, and answered that “Maybe God was lonely and wanted friends.” I thought that sounded good, and didn’t visit that question again for a long time. And so melding humanism and Scripture began in my thinking even as a child.

In my teens, I began to focus on good works in an effort to draw closer to God. I read my Bible daily, spent time in prayer, and for a time, wore clothing that resembled the Mennonite and Amish people we lived near in Pennsylvania at the time…yes, I even wore a head covering! I felt God was truly pleased with my conservative ways.

Still, I was oblivious to the fact that I was seeking spiritual peace through my works instead of resting only in Christ for my salvation and sanctification. I prided myself in my plainness, modesty, simplicity, piety, and anything else I invented that made me feel closer to God.

Mother’s, though imperfect, can have insight into the hearts of their children that no one else has. My mother saw the contradictions in my life and heart and gently pulled me aside one day and, as Yankees do well, she bluntly spoke truth into my floundering mind. She pointed out my faults…the faults like my unkind speech, controlling nature, and lack of basic tenderness toward others due to my overblown self-image. After getting a glimpse of my true self, I remember feeling very much like a failure. The headscarf came off immediately, and I began thinking through the motivations for every behavior.

In my college years, my faith deepened as the Lord began to provide spiritual mentors in my life. Due to the friendships of some extraordinary older women, I began to see a glimpse of what it meant to live out the gospel (although that term was never used.) Grace began to become something I not only partook of, but was learning to live out what had been poured so generously on my life.

One day, while I was preparing to move on from my current place of work, my mother asked me how she could pray for me that coming week. I told her to “Please pray my husband would ask me out this week.” It was a very specific yet heartfelt prayer. Because my hunger was to marry and mother children, but I was getting older and those days were numbered. And I did not want to waste my youth in a waiting mindset. That very week a young man did ask me out! In six months, I was married to that man.

Jim had a different perspective on Scripture than me, in that He was reformed in his theology. Reformed theology was a unimportant in my opinion, so I certainly didn’t let that prevent me from marrying him. And thankfully he married me despite my lethargy about that portion of doctrine.

A year after our marriage, Jim and I were led by God to help a close pastor friend plant a church in the Midwest. The Lord provided Jim with a job that came with a free apartment if he would work maintenance for the landlord. So, Jim quit the job where he was thriving, and started in a new field of work. We felt we were making a big sacrifice to leave good jobs and family, but the Lord had in mind to bring about in our lives a blessing we had no idea existed…a church family.

Up to that point in our lives, church was truly and event and tradition, even though we believed it was biblical to attend, we missed seeing it as an essential part of our faith. In fact, both Jim and I found church very frustrating and our Christian brothers and sisters to be full of contradictions. In Nebraska, there are few traditional believers or pretend Christians. For instance, when I got hired on for my new job after our move, knowing that I was a woman of faith, the owner made it clear that she was not a religious person and would say words that might offend me. Which she did. It was actually refreshing to be around non-believers with no religious pretenses.

Our dear church grew very quickly. Being so far from our family those first years of marriage was also extremely healthy for our relationship with each other. We grew closer to God and to each other out of necessity.

But it was the family of the church that provided the greatest avenue for Spiritual growth. We were surrounded by people, who truly cared for the state of our souls. We had people praying with us and for us as we walked with God. As other Christian’s poured their wisdom into my life, my heart began to grasp biblical truths it had never before seen, and an excitement about the truths of God’s Word and the Gospel began to sprout in my heart.

One day, an older lady I met with regularly for studying Scripture and prayer, brought my attention to a sermon by an old-time preacher named, Paris Reidhead called “Ten Sheckles and a Shirt.” I listened to that sermon over and over with tears. Something clicked in my heart for the first time, as I realized my idolatry. In that Sermon, Reidhead brought up the humanistic thinking that had infiltrated the American church and I saw it abundantly in my own faith.

Questions that Reidhead brought into my head taunted my mind. Did I follow Christ only because He has promised me salvation and heaven? I concluded that God is worthy of my lifelong worship and praise even if my destiny was to be hell for my sins. The idea that God did not need me also became a reality. Even the concept, that a person is helpless to receive redemption without the drawing of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44), and that even the faith to believe is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9) permeated every thought. And to know that Christ did not redeem mankind to fix an unexpected mishap, but that redemption was God’s amazing plan before He created the world! (Eph. 1:4, Ro. 8:29…). God’s sovereignty began to make its appearance to me through Scripture.

I focused my thinking on the sovereignty of God, and spent hours in awe and as my heart began to understand a bit about God’s sovereign grace, and the concept that God choose me. I devoured doctrine and Scripture as though seeing it for the first time. Scripture suddenly made sense as it was placed in the perspective of devotion to God’s glory. I realized Christ did not come to redeem me for me, but for Himself. I had, without meaning too, crossed over to what many Christians call reformed thinking. Scripture passages fell into place under the perspective of God’s sovereignty. My life and all its circumstances took on a meaning beyond myself. To me, it was a turning from the humanistic perspective I had about God, Scripture, and my place in it all, and a simple resting in the God who created and ordained all things for His glory.

As my understanding grew, so did an ache in my heart for my friends and family, neighbors, my children, who must also come to realize that EVERYTHING is about God, not about us! My heart resonates with Paul “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Rom. 11:33. Even now, I understand but a glimpse of those depths and my heart is amazed. My theology up to that point had been so man-centered…humanistic, but the truths that John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and modern-day John Piper brought to my understanding from Scripture, sunk deep into my heart. My perspective turned from its humanistic marriage with Scripture to seeing Scripture through its goal to bring God glory. I still feel I have been playing doctrinal catch-up as I study Scripture up to this day.

After seven years, leaving our church family in the Midwest was truly the deepest grief we have ever felt. But the Lord had made it clear we were meant to move, and so we followed His lead with hope of finding a similar fellowship in our new territory. We thought finding a good church would be easy, but it proved otherwise.

After a year, of seeking churches, we had found nothing. We needed to find something… so we settled at a conservative, Presbyterian church and joined. After engaging in small groups for a very short time, our hearts were greatly saddened to see the lack of value placed on Scripture. In fact, no one even opened a Bible during small groups. We were floundering spiritually, and finding our hearts living in discouragement. We knew we needed the fellowship of Christians along with sound Biblical preaching. So, continuing to fellowship with the small Presbyterian church, we also started attending Sunday evening services at a mega church in order to deepen our relationship with God. We debated joining the large church, but children were not welcome in small groups there, and we really wanted our children to be a part of the church, not just a Sunday School class. After a year of attending two churches, we began praying and seeking for a church again, but with little optimism.

A month into our new church search, Jim received a call from a head-hunter for a job interview. In a short time, the Lord once again asked us to move… this time, we were determined to find a church, so we could be close to the believers we fellowshipped.

We committed the matter of a church to prayer. Once evening, Jim was browsing on his phone one evening and came a across a post from an old college acquaintance. It was a post of a worship service. “Listen to this.” He showed me. After we listened, Jim said, “I wonder where his church is…” After looking it up and seeing the church was minutes from our new location, we planned a visit. We knew after our first visit we had finally found a church home. We still marvel at God’s work.

After a summer long transition, we are two months settled into our home and absolutely cherishing our new church family and looking forward to seeing what the Lord will do in our hearts and lives as we seek Him and continue to grow.

I am in awe of what God does and how He truly encompasses our ways in life to not only physically place us in a position to draw closer to Him, but how He orchestrates every event to even give us a hunger for Himself. It is all about Him…truly everything is all about Him!

Like Mary, in Luke 1:48-50: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” Not because of anything I have done, but I rejoice in Him because of what He has done for His glory.