The Original Touch

The following article is an excerpt from my latest book, Pilgrim at Baldy Mountain which is now available at Amazon.com.

A newborn baby whimpers and squirms. His mother picks him up and hugs him to her breast.

A four year old runs to his father as he walks in the door. He jumps into his father’s arms and cuddles into a warm bear hug.

A 16-year-old boy smiles tentatively as his companion descends the stairs. He blushes as he finds the courage to say, “You look great.”

A husband puts his arm around his wife’s waist. They squeeze each other tightly and kiss.

A group of friends sit around a warm fire in quiet conversation. Another couple arrives. They greet each other warmly with hugs.

A pastor sits in his study listening to a woman pour out her hurt and sorrow. As she talks, he nods and looks intently into her pain-stricken eyes. His face shows concentration and concern.

A common threat runs through all of these encounters. The spark of human touch has been felt. Life is fueled by the energy erupting from this contact. In the touch of body and spirit, life-sustaining forces are at work. Each person affirms the humanity of the other. This affirmation infuses life, growth, and ultimate meaning into each individual’s existence.

Yes, we need each other! The social sciences have discovered through study and observation the not‑so‑simple truth that we are made for each other. In this discovery, however, science has simply uncovered what God has been trying to tell us for a long time.

At the very beginning of the scriptures, Genesis explodes with the beauty of creation as God calls the universe into existence. At each stage of the creative process, God is pleased. As the Scripture repeats over and over, A God saw all that he had made, and it was very good@ (Gen. 1:31). In fact, this positive exclamation is repeated six times throughout the creation story.

A time came, however, during the creation narrative when God announces his disapproval: AIt is not good for the man to be alone. God states emphatically (Gen. 2:18). After so much approval, what prompted this negative outburst from God? John Milton responds that, “Loneliness is the first thing God’s eyes named not good.” We are made for relationship—with other persons and with our Creator.

When God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone;” He was announcing a fact of our created human nature. God knows us for He made us in His image as communal, social creatures who thrive on dialog and relationship, verbal and nonverbal. As our genetic code verifies, each of us is a unique individual but we are programmed to live in community. This uniqueness of our creation has set in motion two parallel and, at times, apparently conflicting needs: the need to confirm our distinctiveness as an individual and the need to find affirmation in mutual relatedness with others. Rather than conflicting, however, these needs spring from the same source. For in touching our brothers and sisters in God’s family our distinctiveness is freed to express itself. Our sense of person, our sense of self-worth, grows out of our relationships with others. As we experience love in all of it forms, we grow. We can love because someone first loved us.

Whatever our age or stage of life, we share an internal rhythm, a pulsing life movement that links each of us to the other. John Donne captured something of this truth when he wrote so beautifully:

No man is an island, entire to itself; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls or thee.

Whatever the nature of our individual experiences, there is a need to live them out in the context of the shared community. The deepest need of any man or woman is the need to overcome separateness, to leave the prison of aloneness, to touch others. Absolute failure to do this brings insanity. We need each other. Contact, high touch, a touching of body and spirit—that is the elixir of life.

Our need to be loved has been satisfied on many levels. We first experience it through our parents, who love us when our own ability to respond is small. We experience it through friendships, and in a still deeper way, through marriage. These relationships offer us acceptance and unity. But however satisfying these relationships may be, they can never provide the kind of totally unconditional love and acceptance for which we yearn. Love on a human level serves to point us toward a much greater love—the love of our Creator. God created us so that He could love us and we could love him in return. We share that restlessness of which St. Augustine spoke when he shouted, “My heart is restless until it finds rest in you.” At our core is a God-shaped vacuum that can be filled only by God’s unconditional love.