by Audrey Elledge & Elizabeth Moore
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
A few years ago, when I (Audrey) was single and had been for awhile, I struggled with something that I didn’t hear many Christian women talking about: a desire for physical touch. Even though what I desired was healthy and good–a tight hug, a hand squeeze, an arm around my shoulders–I still felt embarrassed to admit my desire, since touch often has shame-based connotations that range from unimportant at best and sinful at worst.
When I began probing beneath my longing for touch–and for a boyfriend or husband I could touch–I discovered a longing to be cared for. To be treated as something precious. I found this ache reflected in Scripture, specifically in the ministry of Jesus, who freely and frequently used physical touch to love and heal others. He washed feet (John 13:12-15), gathered children in his arms (Mark 10:13-16), and restored people’s health by touching them (Matthew 8:2-3; John 9:11).
Jesus also received touch from others, such as when his feet were anointed with oil (Luke 7:36-38) and his clothing grasped by a sick woman (Mark 5:28). Jesus’s life demonstrates the value and importance he places on touch.
Ironically, I wrote the following prayer right after I began dating my now fiancé. Even though I had entered into a long-hoped-for relationship, I still found that the longing beneath my desire for touch was unsatisfied, since my ache was for something eternal: union with my Maker. This liturgy was my best attempt to put words to our good and created desire to be fully loved and fully known.
“A Liturgy for Those Deprived of Touch”
I will not sugarcoat this, Oh Lord:
I long to be touched by someone who loves me.
There is no quick fix for this poverty of touch,
as I have determined not to settle for cheap affection
and will not stir up love before it is ready.
But it would be dishonest to say that my body does not ache for an embrace
or that my skin does not feel mired in loneliness.
Oh Maker, please be close.
How beautiful that You understand the constraints of human flesh,
that You know what I feel when I am alone.
Oh High Priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses,
I do not want to feel embarrassed by talking with You about this need,
for You are the God who came to earth and touched others with care.
Oh Christ, You set an example of loving humanity with Your hands:
the blind man whose eyes You touched with spit and mud,
the disciples whose feet You washed,
the children You held,
the woman You blessed when she grabbed Your hem.
Touch is essential in the kingdom of God.
Remind me of the healing already at my disposal:
my ability to hug and to hold.
Grant me discernment so I can touch with honor.
May I always aim to serve rather than take,
rejoicing in shared humanity,
even as I still yearn for a different sort of touch.
Remind me, Oh Bridegroom, that what I long for is but an earthly shadow
of the heavenly marriage that awaits.
The appetite of my flesh is an unfulfilling master,
but it points me to a truer desire: to be fully loved and fully known.
When I feel as if there is no way to endure this loneliness,
when all I crave is connection,
I will cry out to You,
trusting that You will meet me where I lack
and will make even this ache beautiful in its time.
Audrey Elledge and Elizabeth Moore are the authors of Liturgies for Hope: Sixty Prayers for the Highs, the Lows, and Everything in Between.
Audrey Elledge lives in New York, where she works at SparkNotes and serves at Church of the City New York. Audrey is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize and the Virginia Beall Ball Prize.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Elizabeth Moore now lives in New York, where she works at Penguin Random House and serves with the Church of the City New York creative team. Follow her writing at www.elizabethmoorewriting.com or on Instagram @elizabethjmoore.