I’m not gonna lie.
Physical affection is an important part of my intimacy with my wife. Many of my friendships involve healthy affection. What can I say, I’m a hugger. 🤷🏻♂️
If you’re not a hugger, that’s okay! Not everyone is physically affectionate. But spiritually speaking, if you’ve been taught to be wary of physical manifestations of our intimacy with God, that’s problematic. The scriptures are full of people who experienced God phsycially. If you haven’t read my post about the presence of God, you may want to go back and digest that now.
No, I can’t really ‘touch’ God like I touch my wife. But as God and I express our affection for each other, we touch each other in powerful ways—and sometimes there is a physical element to these encounters.
God… touches us?
God’s entire plan of salvation revolves around the spiritual becoming physical—the Word becoming flesh. Mary held God in her arms, kissed his cheeks, and tousled his hair. Jesus reached up and grabbed her nose, like all babies do. Thank about that for a minute.
Christ never ceased to be God, but He walked this earth fully human, making Him “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). So when we follow Jesus through the gospel accounts, we’re seeing God doing and saying what God always says and does. Jesus is heaven in a human.
And what does Jesus do? He regularly goes out of his way to touch people; to lay hands on them; to embrace them, bless them, and lift them to their feet. Remember, Christ did what God does.
Not only that, but Jesus also encourages people who touch Him. I remember the sinful woman, weeping all over his feet with salty tears and wiping them with her hair. I recall the hemophiliac who simply stretched out her hand to touch His robe and receive her healing. I smile as I picture John, leaning peacefully on Jesus’ breast at the Lord’s supper. On the island of Patmos, Jesus would reach out and touch a shell-shocked John’s shoulder when his appearance short-circuited the poor guy’s nervous system.
I believe this. I receive it. This is my God, the same yesterday, today, and forever. I am His servant. Then I act on it. Here are some things I do regularly:
- When I’m praying, I I ask Him to open my eyes and ears to see and hear Him.
- I use my God-given imagination (more on that in future posts) to envision Him with me. I fix the eyes of my heart on Him by faith.
- My affection for God mirrors what we read in the Psalms: It begins through the burning love of my heart for Him.
- This heart-love flows naturally into audible words
- These words become physical actions:
- I kneel before Him, or prostrate myself completely on the floor.
- I reach for him with outstretched hands.
- I lift my arms in praise.
If I could physically touch Him, I would fall at His feet and kiss them in adoration, probably wetting them with my tears. One of the New Testament words for worship means “to kiss towards.” Sometimes when I ‘see’ him with the eyes of my heart, I see Him moving and hear Him speaking, and my heart swells in worship even more. I know these kinds of affectionate displays of worship moved Jesus deeply while He was on earth, and I crave to experience more of the same thing. I’m learning to expect His affection arriving somehow, because my God is an affectionate God.
What does God’s touch feel like?
- Sometimes His touch arrives as peace, joy, hope, or gladness, like a hug from heaven.
- Sometimes, He releases a simple but profound silence in His wake.
- Other times His touch comes in the form of clarity, inspiration, or determination.
- Several times, it has come as physical healing.
- Other times, I have felt His presence physically— a resonant tingling, a pervasive warmth, a gentle hand on my head or brushing my cheek, the weight of glory ‘thickening’ in the room that moves me to worship even more intently.
What if we don’t feel God?
When I don’t feel God’s touch I don’t conclude He isn’t with me, because experience tells me I can be with someone without touching them. When I don’t hear his voice, I know He’s still with me, because I know can be with someone without speaking to them.
When God does touch me, I welcome the feeling and enjoy the experience. But I try to celebrate Him more than the experience. And I try to respond by returning the affection.
Finally: where our focus should be
If you’ve ever thrown a pebble into a still pond, you know that concentric circles ripple out from the point of impact. The ripples are beautiful, but the real event was the pebble breaking the surface. The ripples of God’s presence are wonderful, but I think it’s important to focus upon the pebble, or our gaze will be drawn ever outward, away from Him.
If you’re still struggling to accept the idea that a relationship with God would involve affection, check out my post on interaction with God.
How has this post challenged or clarified your thinking about the presence of God? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.