The mug is warm and I curl my stiff fingers around the smooth ceramic, holding in the heat with my skin. I lift my head. My hair catches, tugging, fighting icy wind. I feel it—the wind—feel it twirl around my neatly pinned hair and brush along my scalp. My toes curl, burrowing in the pine needles. Their points, dulled by decay, swollen with dew, dance under my weight, tickling my feet. The rain falls, wet on my cheeks.
And I find comfort in the texture—in the touch. In feeling life slide, scratch, and brush its unique pattern beneath my skin. Solace. It’s the security of fingering, of gripping reality. This is here. This is real. All will be well. I can feel it.
As a small child I turned to touch for reassurance when I was sick. A stuffed doll, a Lego block, or a icy freezy pop—I would always hold something. I still remember, closing my eyes, trying to memorize the creases in my hands while my eleven-year-old body fought off influenza. As long as I felt something I was anchored in the truth that my pain would pass.
Mom should know. As she reminds me, I could never walk through a store without touching everything in sight. “Look with your eyes Esta, not with your hands”. And she said it over and over.
Those who know me well would say I’m a touchy-feely sort of person. My personal bubble is very small—tiny—if in existence at all. I struggle to communicate with people if I’m not able to be close to them, face to face, or holding their hand.
I’ve received 20 years worth of gifts from my younger brother. Special, all of them. But none near so treasured as the night he caught me as I crumbled and sat, holding my sobbing head against his shoulder, while my heart fell apart and he offered me his sleeve for a tissue.
I experience life and hope and love though touch—through the feel of the wind, the rain, and the warmth of a handshake.
But sometimes I feel a bitterness creep in, because the Person who I want most to feel close to remains beyond my grasp.
I can’t touch God.
I can’t put my fingers in the nail prints like Thomas.
(Doubting Thomas is one of my kindred spirits)
I’m horribly jealous of the woman who got to washed His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair.
And it seems the most infuriating thing in the universe sometimes.
Sure, I can stroke the smooth bark birch, cup my hands under the icy splash of mountain stream, and hold the hot, sticky fingers of a preschooler. But I can’t touch the One who made them. And while in my head I know full well that in touching his creation I am communicating with him, at 3 o’clock in the morning it still seems all terribly unfair.
But, recently, the bitterness has left.
Not because I’ve resigned myself to waiting until heaven, or have accepted the limitations of my fallen mortality, or otherwise made myself feel mature and spiritual.
But because something in Lamentations told me not to do any of them.
Awkwardly, very wobbly like, I’ve begun to ask to be able to feel more.
And honestly, I know it’s the most obvious thing, but I’ve begun to realize that when it says “God is spirit”, that’s what it actually means.
And suddenly the unseen is not “unfelt” like I somehow believed, but felt even deeper than a mug of hot coffee. Actually felt.
In reality, it warms from the inside out.
Really, it really does. And it’s truer than really for real, and honestly serious, not even kidding.
So laugh all you want at me for finally realizing such a simple truth,
But to me its like discovering a whole new world.
A world where you can actually reach out and touch laughter, not just hear it.