Some days, people need a touch. Not just any touch, but something that says, "I care about you, and I love you." We don't need a 15 second hug because some statistics shows it releases endorphins and makes you feel better. We need a 30 second (or more) hug that holds just tight enough to let you know that this is not out of obligation or some experiment to see if it works, but because, "I see you there!" That's it. It's grace and love personified in action. Well, that's what I like anyway. I know I'm a guy, but hey, I'm sensitive. So sue me. I won't go off the deep end, but I'll just say that I need tactile comfort from my wife. I need a hand to hold, or a shoulder to brush up against me regularly, even a neck to massage. I guess it's just how I'm wired.
Is it any wonder that I sometimes struggle in spiritual matters because of my lack of "feeling", or being "touched" by anything? I've been a member of two pentecostal-type churches, and it was a struggle for me. I've had people lay hands on me, pray over me, and anoint me with oil. I've had people encourage me towards tongues, and other giftings, all for the purpose of "feeling" or sensing God's presence in my life. "If I could just get a tangible sense of Him, then I would or wouldn't____________."(fill in the blank). But it never happened.
I do understand why at times, people think they hear the audible voice of God telling them to do something, or they have some other type of physical manifestation. Laughing uncontrollably, being "slain in the spirit", barking (yes, that was/is a thing), being "drunk", etc... were all ways to assume that God, or His Spirit was "touching", or moving in them. I used to really envy that (maybe a small part of me still does). I remember rasing my hands as high as I could, like a car antenna trying to catch a signal. I'd pray for some kind of spiritual movement in me. I would practice tongues, and wonder if an odd stray thought was a "word of knowledge" for someone. None of it helped me, and I would often find myself cursing God while driving home from one of these life-changing church events, where some "prophet" would whoosh (he would literally say "whoosh"), people into hearing what God has in store for them through some special word of knowledge. I'd walk out feeling more empty than when I walked in, as all the hope my heart had been filled with, now lay spilled out onto the church floor, like blood trailing behind me from a open wound as I left for home.
I needed God, but I wasn't feeling Him. Here I was, at a church that emphasized these feelings, and encouraged it, and all the proof was there before me in the people stumbling around, laughing, and weeping, and speaking secret words of knowledge that had been revealed from above. This is what it meant to "feel" His presence, His touch. I can recall the words from a church friend, that in hindsight, was probably the catalyst that started me on this rocky road towards what I believe is my eventual faith in Christ. He said, "Once you get the baptism of the spirit, you'll understand!" Boom! There it was! From that moment on, I never felt like anything other than a second class Christian. It's something like a scar on me, that I still trace my hand over now and again. Hey, words hurt, and like I said, I'm a sensitive guy. After that, I could see all the ways my second class status was playing out. Not only was I not feeling God, I wasn't getting much warm fuzzies anywhere else. I sometimes wonder if church, NOT God, was the worst thing to happen to me. Probably not, but I think it sometimes.
So what's a guy to do? While there, we'd read Scripture, and pray God would help us feel it. I actually had a guy lay an open bible on my stomach, so God's Spirit would leap from that specific scripture into me. (Feel free to groan) It was all so crazy, I can hardly believe I was a part of it. We spent so much time trying to get the spirit to move within us, and make us feel something by faith, either by will or by experiences alone, probably because we had made the movement the answer, or the -end all, be all- of faith in Christ, that we were neglecting the true movement, or touch of God, in His Word.
God HAS touched us with every word written in Scripture. He has caressed our cheeks with words of comfort. He has wiped every tear of depression with words of consolation and hope. He doesn't ask us to just, "snap out of it" and feel better, but like a good father that wants to love his child, His wordspull us. HE pulls us near, and embraces us with words of forgiveness and grace. Even in our rebellious moments, He takes us firmly in hand and says, "This is bad, but I have better!" Its not that I don't have feelings, which is something I thought while in my old churches, as they would try to manufacture them with special experiences. It's just that those feelings come from what I read in His written word. The feelings that come when he says things like, "there is no more condemnation", when I struggle with being a bad parent or husband. When I am overwhelmed thinking God is not happy with me because____, he says, "It is Finished." I don't often get moved to tears, but I am still moved. I don't seek the experiences anymore. They were idols of worship for people who NEED to feel something, whether a shaking or a "liver shiver".
Now, I have more. I have hope. That is the father welcoming the prodigal son home by running to him and adorning with the privileged of being his son again. I have hope that Christ helps me when I can I be honest with him enough to say, help my unbelief. I have hope when I can be honest with my sinfulness and trust him, when I cry out like Paul and say, "who will deliver me from this body of death." I can beat my chest before him and say, "forgive me a sinner" and know he does. I can see that hope in the grace of God's kindness that leads me to take a knee in repentant faith. These are the words that touch me. These are the words that caress me, and hug me with fingers that dig gently into my back, and does not let go. They say to me, "I see you there, and I love you." Most importantly for me, I know those words are there, and mean what they say, even when I don't "feel" any of it.
He is an extremely tactile God and Savior, and he calls us as children to come sit on his knee, to touch his hem, to trace his wounds. He gently places his own clothes over you and calls you righteous through his written word, his scent and presence still permeating that white robe.
Read his words and be embraced by Him.
Note: This was about the Word of God and how it does touch us. But there are other ways we can feel God in tangible and tactile ways, specifically through baptism and communion, which is a conversation for another time. Its important to note all these things that "move us" don't well up from within, but from outside of us as we take it in, or allow it to cleanse us.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?