A few weeks ago, we looked at the idea of restoring our attachment through hearing. While all of our senses ultimately need to be restored, this week, we’ll focus on touch. (You can find more details on these and other senses by reading my book, Restore.)
Especially in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, people recognized a few other rampant conditions that infected our world. Or, maybe more accurately, one condition with many names. Touch deprivation. Touch starvation. Lost touch.
Basically, the idea is that people need touch to survive. This isn’t about thriving anymore; it’s a basic building block to our health. Unfortunately, even before the forced separation caused by the pandemic, some people consider it unwanted affection or attention. If you don’t actually like being touched, you’re not alone. It may be as simple as not wanting to be touched when it’s hot outside or by someone you don’t know. Or maybe touch makes you uncomfortable in every situation. You may experience something more serious like sensory sensitivity, issues due to past abuse or trauma, struggles with mental health, trust issues, or not having a high view of yourself.
Here’s the thing: because we live in a fallen, broken world, our sense of touch is broken too.
Maybe people have abused it, maybe our culture didn’t embrace it, or maybe we just didn’t receive a lot of it as children. And that’s where we’ll focus today, though if you want to want healthy, positive touch, my prayer is that this blog (and my book) will help you understand how our sense of touch works and how it can be restored.
Even though it’s a bit of an abstract concept, if our hearts are not receptive to the comforting, stabilizing, and healing touch of Christ in our lives, we can continue to struggle with poor attachment, not knowing how to safely navigate relationships and the world around us.
How Do I Know I Need Restored Touch?
If you grew up in the ruins of insecure attachment with unavailable, intrusive, or abusive touch, then to survive, you continue to remain in small spaces; not allow others to reach you; resistant to any sort of connection, touch, or relationship that requires you to come out of your comfort zone. You continually run from relationships into small, tight spaces asking the people you love the most, “If I hide, will you come find me?” You think it’s comfortable there, but really, it’s not; it’s cramped, small, and lonely. But since it’s the only space you’ve ever known, you cling to it.
To understand how we relate to God and receive His touch, we must start by thinking about our relationship to our parents or primary caretakers.
Read through the options below and note which one applies to you. Feel free to write out your thoughts or answers on a sheet of paper or in a journal.
- Your parents’ touch was consistent, stable, and nurturing. Their touch and availability gave you the confidence and freedom to navigate life from a secure place of love.
- Your parents’ nurturing touch was lacking in your life. Perhaps the lack came from your parents’ decision to leave and remain absent, or perhaps the lack came against your parents’ will, either through sickness or death.
- Your parents’ nurturing touch was inconsistent in your life. Sometimes it was available to you and sometimes not—you never knew which one it would be.
- Your parents were present, but the touch you consistently received from them was harsh, punitive, shameful, or inappropriate.
- If you experienced lack or inconsistency in a parent’s nurturing, stabilizing touch, how do you think that affected your ability to navigate the world around you:
- Physically –
- Emotionally –
- Relationally –
Let’s pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Again, those questions could be incredibly difficult for some of you to think through and answer. If that is the case, I am so sorry. Consider taking a break or processing the answers to those questions with a counselor or someone you trust.
Now, let’s think about our connection with God.
- If you did not receive the nurturing, stabilizing touch you needed from your earthly parents, how do you see this affecting your relationship with God?
- Do you struggle to feel secure, confident, and free in relationship with Him and in navigating the world around you? If so, how does that play out on a regular basis?
- Think for a moment: when you are in a moment of feeling insecure, unstable, or overwhelmed, what people or things are you often tempted to secure yourself on apart from Christ (like friends, spouse, significant other, education, career, etc.)?
- Now list the methods you most often or naturally turn to in order to steady or secure yourself (texting or calling a person or specific group of people to gossip, slander, or tear someone down; purchasing something online or in a store; eating, drinking alcohol, watching a show, looking at pornography, etc.).
- What specific things in the past several years can you look back on and identify as sinking ground that you were certain was stable and solid but now realize was a miry bog?
- How did God use a very shaky, unstable season to help transfer your trust, confidence, and security to Him?
- Is there anything you are still holding onto, still using to steady and secure yourself, when you know your confidence should be in God alone? If so, what is that person or thing?
When God initially rescues us in that moment of salvation when we place our trust in Christ, our lives immediately become secure. We are rescued from the ultimate pit of death and destruction, and we are placed in an immovable, secure place of eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. But part of the process of growing in our relationship with Christ is allowing Him to move our feet from standing on any other person or thing that brings us security and placing our trust in Him alone.
How Do I Move into A Secure Sense of Touch?
To move from insecure to secure attachment through touch, at some point, you must be still long enough to respond to the call and the presence of the One who is outside the small space, waiting for you, searching for your heart to be found. Ironically, this often happens amid your ruptured relationships and most glaring faults. But there, in the places where you have failed or others have failed or left you, is exactly where He waits. He is waiting to take your hands and teach you how to walk in a world He has designed to help you not just survive, but flourish.
Re-engage with Your Emotions
Here are a few ways to build a foundation to help you restore through touch:
- Forgive our parents or anyone who touched us in harmful or inappropriate ways. Remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone the action but that we’re releasing our hurt, ourselves, the offense, and that person to God to take care of.
- Remember that to admit your parents were at fault or lacking in certain areas of their parenting isn’t saying your parents did not love you.
- Acknowledge that for the most part, our parents loved us the best way they knew how. But their faults and lack still left a void or mark on our lives.
Re-engage with Your Body
Your body and mind might still be trying to protect you from danger that has passed. The good news is that restoration is possible. Here are some good options for beginning the process of reconnecting with your sense of touch. All of these ideas came from my friend Chelsea Rhoden who is a licensed counselor:
- You might begin by spending focused time petting a dog or other pet and noticing your safety as you do. Spend time really noticing your connection via touch and the positive feelings associated with this.
- A next level step might be to watch simple stretching videos on YouTube and follow along. As you do, notice the sensations in the different areas that are being stretched. Notice that you are safe and that your body is under your own control.
- Many people find that going to restorative yoga or Pilates is a safe and beneficial place to reconnect with their bodies. While any “meditative” time in yoga should certainly be directed to prayer and engaging with our heavenly Father, I also encourage you to notice the safety you now experience in your body.
Whatever option you choose to re-engage with your body, don’t miss God in the middle of it. Praying and thanking Him for each stretch, touch, or ability to feel throughout the process keeps Him at the center.
Re-engage with Your Heavenly Father
If your sense of touch was broken through your relationship with your parents, it likely affected your relationship with God. Here are a few ways to re-engage with Him:
- Pray. Father, so often, I am tempted to place my trust, confidence, and security in instead of in You. Please forgive me. I know I cannot deliver myself; only You can rescue me. Please do what I cannot do for myself in the days and weeks ahead and set my feet upon the rock of Christ, the only steady, unshakeable ground.
- Remember. Remember that you are being built into a spiritual house. Remember what your identity really is and the purpose for which you have been created.
- Allow. Allow God’s Word to examine you rather than examining it. Invite Him to show you what’s really in your heart—and to heal it.
- Realize. Realize that you are adopted and loved by a God who keeps showing up with His nurturing touch and presence.
- Trust. Restoring through touch can be a painful process, like any restoration. So, trust that the same hand that crushes the walls we have built to keep God out also covers us.
- Stay. At some point, we have to stop running. We have to stop mistaking the pain in our lives for God’s rejection.
We must learn every moment is an opportunity for God to reach into our lives, restore our souls, and cover us, even in the most painful places, with His unconditional, steadfast love. We must choose to believe that while sin abandoned us, God came after us. And He always will.
God Is Our Redeemer and Restorer
God is the restorer of all things and wants all truth to be brought to light. When He calls us to love Him with all our heart, mind, body, and soul, He means all of it. This means He cares about restoration in all areas of our lives, our bodies, souls, and minds included. The amazing thing is that restoration of one part of your life is directly connected to all the others. As you seek God and find that He is your hiding place, He will give you the strength to overcome fear and face these physical obstacles that might seem impossible. He is your Good Shepherd who tenderly cares for you and is not afraid of your physical pain. Rather, He sees it and knows hope and healing are found in Him alone.
Summer is such a good time to take a deep breath, exhale, and set new rhythms for life. If you want to delve deeper into how God wants to heal all of your senses, including the sense of touch, consider slowly reading through my book Restore: Remembering Life’s Hurts with the God Who Rebuilds, and then working through the seven-week companion workbook. While the book shares details of my story and how God began the journey of restoration in me, the workbook is for you and restoration in your story. Just as God restored me, He wants to restore you and secure all of your senses to Him as your good Father.
*All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For more information on restoring your attachment through your senses or earned secure attachment, check out Susannah’s book, Restore and download the first chapter for free!