Recently, I had lunch with some dear friends in their backyard. We sat and enjoyed one another’s company for over two hours. When it was time for me to leave, they walked me to the door and hugged me. At first, I pulled back to protect myself but then realized each of us was fully vaccinated. It was the first time I’ve been hugged since February 2020.

As a single man who lives alone and has a compromised immune system, the pandemic kept me isolated from others and the good touch they provide. How painful life is without touch, especially for one like me that grew up extremely touch-deprived. Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy touch that is meaningful and loving. It conveys to me the compassion of others and their care for me. Sometimes it is just the way they listen or empathize that touches me deep within. There are so many ways that we can touch others through our words, attentiveness, and actions.

Now I know for some of you touch isn’t a problem. You are either not a big fan of touch or live in a bubble where you experience it daily.

For me, touch has been like water to my thirsty soul. It has awakened things within me that laid dormant for years. When one is not touched, you tend to think of yourself as unloved. That there is something wrong with you.

This quote that I found captures what I’m trying to convey.

“No other form of communication is as universally understood as touch. The compassionate touch of the hand or a reassuring hug can take away our fears, soothe our anxieties, and fill the emptiness of being lonely.”

Years ago, I became aware of “imaginative prayer.” You are invited to place yourself into a gospel story and observe Jesus and those within the story. Well, I didn’t want to watch; I wanted to participate.

There is a story in Mark 10:13-16 that is titled “The Little Children and Jesus.”

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I tell you, anyone, who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them, and blessed them.

When I imagine myself in that story, I’m one of those little children that Jesus takes in His arms and blesses. And it isn’t a short encounter. I find myself laying my head on his shoulder and resting there for a bit.

During the pandemic, I practiced “imaginative prayer” quite often. The ebbs and flows of my aloneness drove me towards Jesus’ loving arms again and again.

Give it a shot and insert yourself into the story. May you find comfort in Jesus’ loving arms.

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