Sunday, November 18, 2018
I am friends with several other people on Facebook who are same-sex attracted. Some I have met at conferences, some add me because we are in a group for SSA people, and a few have added me after reading my blog. Some are open about their struggles, and some have only told a few people, and some haven't told anyone other than myself.
One friend who is very much in the closet with his struggles, messaged me yesterday with this:
"I'm not sure if you can identify with me on this issue of touch as a single uninvolved man. I can go weeks without any sort of physical contact. Maybe a handshake at work...even that's rare."
Touch is important. I read of an experiment conducted once on babies. I can't remember why their mothers were not present, but they discovered babies that were held often blossomed, were happy, and active. Babies that were not held were listless, unhappy, fussy, and did not progress as fast as those that were held.
Jesus was not shy about touching people, and He even touched the untouchable. Lepers were avoided and were not allowed around areas where people lived. It was a highly contagious disease that there was no cure for, yet Jesus touched lepers to heal them. It was likely the first time in a long time that anyone had touched them. He knew that, and that may be why He touched them. He could have healed them with a word. He had healed others that way, yet He touched the lepers.
He touched the blind man. He even made clay and put it on his eyes. I imagine blind people were looked down on in those times. They couldn't work, and many begged for money.
And there are many other times recorded that Jesus touched people to heal them, and most likely a lot of people He healed by touch that is not recorded in the Bible.
Touch can mean a lot. It may sound weird, but it is a good feeling when another guy pats me on the back or shoulder. Just this morning, our song leader was walking back the aisle, and said "hi Marcus", and slugged me lightly on the arm. It is just a good feeling, and one many may not understand.
Men especially can be starved for physical touch. Our society has so gayed down America, that guys are afraid to do anything that could be misconstrued as gay. If two girls are walking with linked arms or an arm around the other's shoulder, no one blinks. If two guys were to do that..... well, it would be different.
In his book, A Bigger World Yet: Faith, Brotherhood, and Same-sex needs, Tim Timmerman discussed what it is like in other countries and societies. In some places, it is not unusual for two heterosexual guys to sit with knees touching as they talk and fellowship. They are much more likely to hug and walk with their arms around each other than here in America. Here in America, it isn't very common for heterosexual males to have much physical contact.
Also in the book, Timmerman told of how men with SSA had their temptations, insecurities, and sexual desire for other men lessen a lot when experiencing physical intimacy with heterosexual guys....such as full on body hugs lasting at least 20 seconds.
I don't want to turn every post into a discussion about same-sex attractions, but there is something to be said for the desire for male intimacy in guys with SSA. Most, such my friend who inspired this post, are starving for physical touch and male camaraderie, but don't get much, if any, because of this world we live in where any touch between men can be misconstrued as gay.
Thankfully, I do have people in my life who hug me. Many of those who give me hugs are female, and that is OK. I enjoy hugs from anyone, but especially from my nieces and nephews.
There is a man who volunteers at the hospital 2 days a week out in the lobby where I work. He is a round 65-66, and is a great Christian man. I needed my car jumped Thursday, so I texted him and asked if he could come and do it when I was done for the day. He lives close, and so it was not a problem. After the car was running, I thanked him, and he stuck out his hand to shake my hand..as he often does. As I shook, he pulled me close for a quick hug, and it felt great to get hug from this guy I admire and have confidence in.
We need more of that. Not everyone is comfortable with hugging. I get that. Plus, not everyone is comfortable with hugs. A touch on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a slight punch to the shoulder, a fist bump....it shows people you care about them, and it can mean a lot to people who don't experience much physical touch.
And on the humorous side, there are improper times and ways to touch. I experienced that twice 2 weeks ago within a couple of days:
1) I was in Walmart looking at glue traps for mice. This random women in her 60's flung her arm around me, yanked me to her, and said "you aren't going to superglue a cat to the road are you?" She let go, and read my bewildered and horrified look to mean I had no clue what she was talking about. That was only part of my being horrified and bewildered. She explained that some guy had super-glued a kitten to the road. I said no, that I was just going to catch mice.
2) I was at work standing in the lobby beside Ben, a young volunteer 22 years old. There was a woman standing across from me who is a frequent visitor, and who I think is a french fry short of a Happy Meal. She was staring at me, and then she marched over to me, and goes "I just gotta know!" She grabbed one side of my blazer and yanked it to the side, then repeated the action with the other side. Then "I was just wondering if you were carrying a taser or gun." Uh,, maybe she could have just asked me.... After she walked away, Ben, laughing, goes "you should have seen the look on your face...". Yeah.
In this day of #metoo, sexual harassment, false sexual harassment claims, and all that...one has to be careful about touching people. I very, very rarely initiate a hug with a woman. If I hugged one who didn't want it, I am not sure the "I am not attracted to woman" defense would work. There are a couple of older volunteer ladies who are in their 80's that aren't able to volunteer.When they come in to visit or for testing, I always go and hug them.....it really helped on Friday when the one told me I was a shadow of my former self, and asked if I was losing weight. I definitely hugged her! But most women... nope. They must initiate it. There is a female PCA who works in the ER and is exactly 6 days older than I am. She expects a hug when she sees me, and often walks up and says she needs a hug.
I ran across this, and I have read similar statements before:
"A hug is probably the simplest-yet-most-powerful way to connect with anyone, be it someone we deeply love or a complete stranger. It epitomizes true give and take where both parties support one another. A warm, compassionate embrace is powerful—one that can heal, make you feel secure, transform lives, and help overcome toughest challenges.
What’s more, a hug can give us the strength to fight diseases, even life-threatening ones. Research proves hugs help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Several studies suggest that hugging can help reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
At times, all it takes is one hug to transform an individual. A selfish person can change into a caring, others-focused person. A hateful person can transform into a loving and considerate friend. Amazing, isn’t it? Never underestimate the power of a hug." (taken from this website)
There are a lot of lonely and hurting people in this world. You work with them. You attend church with them. They are in your family. They are your neighbor, the cashier at Walmart, your mailman, etc. No, you can't go around hugging everyone, but sometimes you can sense who might be open to it..or at least a touch on the shoulder with a kind word.
I've been there. I have been lonely, at the end of my rope, feeling no one cared...even God. Rarely did anyone step up and offer encouragement and/or a touch of caring.
And that can be anyone. We may never know the difference a touch, hug, or kind word can make i someone's day or even their life.