The Healing Touch
….Being adult children means that we are chronologically and biologically mature before we are emotionally mature. Most of us have some catching up to do in dealing with emotions, responsibilities and relationships. One of the ways we develop the ability to experience intimacy is through touching and being touched. Experiencing touch in a healthy way is a necessary part of our healing and crucial to our journey toward wholeness and maturity in Christ.
Because of poor role models in our home, we may be inadequately prepared for adult living. Negative influences were possibly more captivating to us than the men and women we knew who reflected Christ. During our formative years, we especially needed godly male and female models to learn what mature adults look and act like. If we are going to catch up in the areas in which we are deficient and properly prepare our own children for adult life, we need consistent and positive physical nurturing from healthy role models.
Many fathers in our society have opted out of family life, have taken out their anger on their wives and children or have in other ways shown their inadequacy as nurturers. Because of my own background and my relationship with my father, I believe it is particularly important that we have father role models who practice healthy, positive touching and nurturing.
Fathers can provide us with healthy images of God the Father by personal example. God-like role models can represent the values, morals and character of our Heavenly Father. By their attention, embrace, nurture, discipline, consistency and presence in our home, healthy fathers can show us those important aspects of God’s nature.
We are created in the image and likeness of God, who has always interacted with his creation on a personal level. Although it may have seemed otherwise in our painful childhoods, God has never been absent, inattentive, or abusive. God showed us the importance of personal touch when he sent his only begotten .Son to live with us. Touch was extremely important in Jesus’ healing ministry, and today he touches us still.
Our being is confirmed as the Holy Spirit brings us forgiveness, healing, joy, encouragement, discipline and direction. When we invite Christ into our lives, his presence produces in us a sense of security, belonging and purpose. When we fail to respond to God’s presence, we experience emptiness, fear and confusion. No matter what we do, God’s offer is always open; he does not change in his desire and intent to touch our lives with great blessings.
If we are to become mature adults, it is important that we face any damages we may have sustained in the areas of intimate contact. Many of us who were raised in a dysfunctional home may not have experienced enough nurturing from our parents. We may have been either deprived of healthy intimacy or damaged by physical abuse.
Whatever our childhood difficulties were, we may be lacking in our abilities to give and receive closeness in a healthy way. Studies on early childhood development have consistently shown the importance of physical and verbal intimacy. Life is conceived and nurtured with intimate touch; it provides babies with the security necessary to begin proper physical, mental and emotional development.
Our earliest touch experiences create a life-long bond between our parents or primary caregivers and ourselves. From the time we are infants, we begin to express this need by asking for and desiring physical and verbal interaction. We develop a desire to stay close-to be rocked, to be held and talked to. We even show a need for a firm but loving touch to guide and discipline us.
As growing children, we continue to need nurturing, guidance and discipline. If we receive what we need, we will also learn to reach out and touch others.
Our need for touching and being touched continues throughout our pre-adolescent stage. The need for bonding, nurturing, caring, guidance and discipline remains constant through all the crucial stages of childhood development. During adolescence, we begin to desire more intimate contact while retaining all of our other needs for closeness. Our need for intimate touching is part of the exploration of our sexual identity which usually begins during puberty.
Sometime during puberty, most of us consciously or unconsciously begin the search for a mate-someone who can be our partner for life. This need for closeness may culminate in the formal commitment of marriage. Ideally, our sexual and intimate needs will be fulfilled with God’s blessing in a marriage of whole, healthy partners.
Problems can occur if our needs at any stage of development are not met, or if they are met in the wrong way. Deprivation or physical abuse is devastating to the development of mature adult life. Following are some ways in which we may have experienced abuse or deprivation:
Lack of gentle, caressing strokes and holding in a loving manner.
Lack of bonding due to unresponsive or absent parents or caregivers in our infancy or early childhood.
Affirmation and Acceptance
Lack of positive comments and gestures affirming our being, growth and accomplishments. Not being accepted for who we are, and having unrealistic expectations placed upon us.
Absence of guidance and support in a loving and reassuring way.
Inadequate modeling or teaching about God’s loving touch.
Absence of loving, affirmative discipline. Use of excessive force that
affects us physically and emotionally.
Violence, such as venting anger physically.
Inappropriate touching in areas that cause sexual arousal in adults,
sometimes leading to sexual intercourse.
Continual criticism or blame, especially for events beyond our control. Unrealistic expectations that we fulfill adult emotional needs.
The results of negative touch experience or deprivation become most clear in our adult relationships, but usually start to become apparent in childhood. Any damage we may have suffered can affect us in many ways. Some of our behaviors that can be partially traced to abuse and deprivation are as follows:
– Fear of being touched.
-Withdrawal from close contact.
– Fear of intimacy.
– Problems expressing ourselves sexually as adults, even with a loving
and caring partner.
– Sexual abuse of ourselves or others.
The prevalence of these symptoms in adults in our society is a clear indication that the incidence of touch abuse and deprivation is widespread. The sharp rise in the number of incidents involving violence, rape, incest, sexual abuse and mental illness prove that we are in danger.
Rather than being alarmed at the scope of the problem, we can trust that there is hope. Christ-centered recovery offers a powerful solution to this epidemic of abuse and deprivation. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed. Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment." MA’ITHEW 9:20-22 (NIV). Jesus calls us to touch the hem of his garment-as this woman did-and be healed. We can be healed by Christ if we allow him to touch our deep wounds.
If we turn our healing over to God and trust the power of the Holy Spirit, there is hope for us. Some of the ways in which we may do this are:
– Ask Christ to come into our lives.
– Submit every area of our lives to God’s loving guidance and control.
– Ask Christ to reveal and heal the areas of woundedness that continue to damage us.
– Stop blaming our parents or others who abused or deprived us.
– Refuse to let anyone touch us in an abusive or violent" way.
– Learn the art of nurture in all our relationships.
– Give our mates and children the touch they need.
– Trust that God desires to touch our lives with nurture, affirmation, purpose and love.
– Becoming willing to receive forgiveness, cleansing, purity, joy, peace and power through the Holy Spirit.
If we have the courage to face our intimacy problems, we can greatly enhance our ability to move toward healing and wholeness through Christ. ‘We can experience the joys of healthy and mature adult relationships.
What were your childhood experiences of touch?
In what ways do you feel abused by or deprived of touch now?
How does Christ touch your life today?
As you are able, touch at least one person a day in an affirming way that feels comfortable to you. You might try a hug, a gentle touch, or a back rub. How do you feel about this idea?
Who was the male role model in your life that contributed most effectively to your well-being as a child? Describe your relationship with that person.
Who was the female role model in your life that contributed most effectively to your well-being as a child? Describe your relationship with that person. .
Recovery Tool: Scriptural Prescriptions
Healing and Christian maturity come through the practical application of Scripture to our lives and can be referred to as Scriptural Prescriptions. Some examples are: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 PETER 5:7 (NIV). Anxiety attacks, burdens and concerns impair our growth and healing. At the end of each day we can identify the things that we are anxious or concerned about and ask God for guidance. As we proceed in recovery, we may find ourselves casting all cares on God as they arise. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." JAMES 4:10 (NIV). It is true that God gives abundant grace to the humble. His grace is sufficient help for our natural weakness. Humility is not putting ourselves down. It is not demeaning or belittling ourselves. To humble ourselves is to gain and maintain God’s perspective. "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly (or more lowly) than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." ROMANS 12:3 (NIV)
"…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." PHILIPPIANS 4:8 (NIV). .
Not only are we taught to think of ourselves from God’s perspective, but we are also called by Scripture to think of the positive in all else. When we set our minds on the good and truth in others, we experience true peace and serenity. As part of learning to set our minds in tune with Scripture, we may want to set aside time to meditate on all that is lovely, fine and praiseworthy in God’s creation.
These are a only few examples of how to use God’s word as a personal prescription for grow h and healing. Some find it helpful to read aloud positive affirmations from Scripture. Posting such an affirmation in a prominent place can help remind us of who and what we are as children of God. The more we are exposed to God’s word, the more prepared we are for the touch of his healing grace. Following are some examples of Scriptural affirmations:
– Old things have passed away; all things have become new.
– I am kept by the power of God.
– I am complete in Jesus.
– I am sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.
– Jesus Christ is my Lord, and I am a product of his love.
– I can do all things which strengthen me through Christ.
– Now, in the name of Jesus, I proclaim my liberty, freedom and peace through his love.
Remember that we are unique, unrepeatable miracles of God’s grace in Christ. When we turn to him in all things, we allow his influence to change our thoughts, feelings and actions. As we apply God’s word to our lives, we come to understand how he wishes us to live.
• What behaviors do you see in yourself that result from earlier touch abuse or deprivation?
• What steps are you willing to take to bring more positive touch into your life?
• What areas of touch abuse or deprivation were most damaging to you as a child? How are they affecting your life today?
• Describe a recent situation that indicates you "cast all your anxiety on God."
• Share a meaningful experience in using the journal as part of your recovery process.
What is your prayer request for yourself or others?