Sometimes, when my husband Jeremy touches me, I flinch; when he reaches out to hug or kiss me, I lean away. Not always, but often. I do the same things whenever my three sons attempt to affectionately touch or get close to me in any way. There have been times where I have literally pushed them away and told them to get off of me or to stop touching me. I also have this thing where when my family of six gathers together at our eight-seater dining table for meals, I don’t like for any of them to sit in the chairs on either side of me.
I know that sounds really weird, but it’s my truth.
Recently, I had one of those flinching moments when Jeremy tried to touch me and he called me out on it. He said, “Do you realize you jump or lean away every time I touch you? You act as if I’m hurting you or you don’t like my affection.” I looked at him very puzzled, because I honestly didn’t realize it. Well, at least I didn’t realize that I did it excessively.
“No I don’t, babe. Why wouldn’t I like your affection?” I said.
I kid you not, less than 10 minutes passed before the exact same thing happened and, this time, I was fully aware of my actions.
“I’m so sorry. It’s not you or your touch. It’s me. I’m trippin’,” I told my husband. Then, I tried to make up for it by laying close to and cuddling him. Within a couple of minutes, though, I felt uncomfortable. I felt suffocated and just wanted to slide back over to my side of the bed.
And that’s exactly what I did. Sorry, babe.
I didn’t sleep well that particular night. I recall having thought after thought of what’s wrong with me? Why am I rejecting my husband’s touch? My sons’ touch? How does that make them feel? Will I push my husband away by not welcoming his affection? How long has this been happening? Have I always been this way?
I remember quietly slipping out of the bed in the middle of the night as Jeremy soundly slept, to go into the bathroom and release the tears that had welled in my eyes. I sat on the edge of my tub and silently sobbed. I realized that I actually had been pushing my husband and sons away for a very long time. Flashbacks of specific moments flooded my memory. I felt so terribly bad.
Although not my intention, my unwelcoming reaction to their loving touch became second nature. As an introvert, I summed it up to the fact that I just naturally like my space. Deep down, though, I knew that was only a superficial resolve.
I questioned my heart towards Jeremy and the boys, and asked God to show me where my rejection of their affection stemmed from. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Prior to my husband and sons, I had never - not even once in my life - experienced a healthy touch from or relationship with a male.
Never! No exaggeration.
Absent father. Molested by a relative as a young girl. Inappropriately groped by my godfather as a teenager. Attacked by a group of my male peers in middle school. Boyfriends who went too far after my refusal of sex. Not to mention all of the unsolicited grabs and gropes from teenaged boys and grown men, apparently incapable of controlling their hormones and lusts, who used my body as the source of their satisfaction. It’s safe to say that I have experienced my fair share of infelicitous touches.
Although the caress of the four men in my life comes from a completely different place than that of those who violated me, subconsciously, I register it as the same. Though I thought I had worked through the issues of those parts of my past, I realize now that there is still obviously some residue left from those traumas, and it’s causing me to reject what God sent to restore me.
I believe God gave me my husband and three sons as an extension of His love for me from the male species. I believe with all of my heart that He placed them in my life to eradicate the negative experiences I’d had with men. They, to me, were sent on assignment to heal the broken places in my heart caused by harmful touches of evil men and to show me that there is a touch from a man that is loving, tender, and kind.
It makes me think about Jesus’ touch. In the Bible, every encounter with Jesus’ touch ended in healing.
A man with leprosy (Matthew 8:2-3).
Two blind men (Matthew 9:29-30).
A 12 year-old girl (Mark 5:41-42).
A woman who couldn’t stand up straight (Luke 13:11-13).
Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15).
A deaf man who could barely talk (Mark 7:32-35).
Just to list a few.
His touch came from, and still comes, from a place of love, healing, and restoration. It is a place of comfort, safety, and freedom. Whenever Jesus reaches out to us, He is giving us the caress of His care, the pureness of His heart, and the depth of His affection.
We can exhale in His touch.
We can release our inhibitions in His touch.
We can relinquish our fears in His touch.
We can erase the traumas of our past in His touch.
So often though, we reject what God has sent to help us, because a form of the very same thing was something that deeply hurt us. But this is a touch that we should openly welcome and embrace. This is a different touch. It’s good for us.
One thing I know for sure is that every single time Jesus touches me, I am made whole. I am healed. I am refreshed. I am nurtured. I am loved. I should feel the same with that of my dear husband and children, so I’m commencing the inner work to do just that.