Muscles tightened in my back like so many clenched fists. My neck felt as though it had been poured full of concrete. My massage therapist, Rachel, read my body’s condition like a blind person reading Braille, her hands and fingers deciphering words that had been chiseled into my frame with the hammer of life’s stressors.
Gradually. Slowly. Methodically she eased the tensions with her trained touch. My breathing slowed. My mind calmed. My body relaxed. Lying on the table, my thoughts rested on the importance of touch and its healing benefits. I also thought of those who are deprived of touch on a regular basis and of how they often suffer from something psychologists refer to as “skin hunger”.
I thought of my mother and how as she aged and her contact with the outside world became increasingly minimal, she seemed to need and relish the gift of touch even more. Often I would hold her hand while we watched TV together, rub her back and shoulders, and always gave long hugs upon arrival and departure. She seemed to soak it in like a sponge absorbing water.
We experience “skin hunger” for a good reason. . . it’s good for our health. Dr. Tiffany Field is one of many experts who claim its benefits. She says it helps reduce pain, anxiety, depression and promotes immune function and healing. It has also been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure. And those are just the physical benefits! The emotional benefits of touch are equally as impactful. Without it babies can actually stop growing and – even if they’re receiving proper nutrition – die.
We experience “skin hunger” for a good reason. . . it’s good for our health.
Adolescents and teens who are provided ample touch through affirming hugs and physical contact from their parents are less likely to seek inappropriate sources to feed the “skin hunger” which even that independent age group has. Sometimes the child or friend who is behaving the worst is the one who needs a hug the most!
And just as we are created with a natural desire to be nurtured and affirmed through physical touch, our spirits are created with a natural desire to know and be known by God. This “God hunger” may feel like an inner dis-ease or anxiety which is difficult to explain. It may be a deep loneliness, an emptiness on the inside for which you can’t find words. Perhaps it’s a void you try to fill with work or pleasure or people or even pain killers. But the void is real and the empty God spot inside just won’t go away.
And just as we are created with a natural desire to be nurtured and affirmed through physical touch, our spirits are created with a natural desire to know and be known by God.
That hunger is expressed in these passages: Isaiah 26:9 “At night my soul longs for YOU. Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently;” And in Psalm 119:18, “My soul languishes for Your salvation”. Again in Psalm 143:6, “I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land.”
Can you feel the God hunger in those words? I can because I understand it. I know it. I have experienced it. Sometimes I want HIM more than I want food. Or fun. Or even family. When my spirit craves to be fed, only GOD will do. All else leaves me searching still.
I love good food. Fresh fruits. Lots of vegetables. A full well-balanced meal. I cook almost every night of the week so my body is used to having good food. When I am away from home or we are running on a tight schedule and I resort to fast foods, I can only tolerate it for so long and then I begin to CRAVE the healthful foods my body needs. It is a hunger no amount of junk food can satisfy. My soul knows a craving very similar to this. It’s a God hunger. No television show, no party, no outdoor adventure, no amount of shopping can satisfy the craving in my soul. It’s all like junk food compared to spending quality time with HIM. My soul knows it needs God just as my body knows it needs good nutrition. It is a hunger which is inescapable.
My soul knows it needs God just as my body knows it needs good nutrition.
For me, prayer and meditating on The Scriptures are like the fruits and vegetable servings for my soul. Of course, just like cooking a really good meal to satisfy physical hunger requires time and effort, focused prayer and Bible reading require the same. Tim Keller says, “Many Christians struggle to feel close to God because it’s easier to tweet than to pray”. Ouch! That truth hurts, doesn’t it?
We live in a culture that connects through media multiple times a day with multiple people in multiple places. But that kind of “connection” can never take the place of the friend who looks you in the eye, holds you by the hand and satisfies your hunger to be seen and understood. There’s something about the physical presence of that person which adds another dimension to our interaction.
And so it is with our relationship with God. All the podcasts in the world, all the sermons online and all the good books we could read would never replace that intimate moment when we sense His holy presence, we hear His inner whisper and we know He is satisfying our hunger for Him.