I got up very early this Saturday morning to fly to Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico, to spend a week getting acquainted with and working with our church planting mission there. Lazaro is a beautiful place on the southwest coast of Mexico and across the bay from Ixtappa. It is an important seaport full of working class people while Ixtappa is the tourist resort.
It was a short night after an exhausting week filled with anguish and loving concern. God’s redemptive love showed up in the words and actions of brothers and sisters who helped carry another family through a time of unspeakable grief … again — it has been a hard journey for our faith family the last four months.
The first flight went perfectly without a hitch, plus my friend and church shepherd, Steve Ridgell, was on board. After arriving early to DFW, we prayed before going in different directions to answer God’s shared but different calls on our lives.
I found a quiet spot and worked on heartlight.org piece for tomorrow and watched the Korean jetliner land coming in from Seoul, South Korea. I had been on that flight three weeks earlier returning from an incredible follow up visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean, but I do know that I hope this trip is equally blessed and effective.
After working on the article for a couple of hours, I rushed to the gate to board the plane and found a plane full of folks with no airplane! Ugh, this is going to get interesting and everyone knew it. Those with little children had that deer in the headlights look and we hadn’t even started the “fun” stuff yet. My AA flight alert went off very 30 minutes promising we would take off in 30 more minutes — which, of course, none of us believed because the plane wasn’t even at the gate yet. We boarded 2 hours after we were supposed to be in the air and all the small kids were now at the end of their patience and their parents had that knowing look of the “wonderful” moments to come. They weren’t disappointed … unfortunately.
Now an two hours into the flight, Bose headphones on, all the kids settled down and asleep, and the flight smooth as silk, I am reminded of something precious. One of my favorite Jesus events in the gospels is the healing of the man with leprosy in Mark 1. Jesus touches the may with leprosy before he heals him. So much is said with that one touch.
Jesus shares in the unclean-ness of this isolated and alone man when he blesses him with a moment of connection and heaven’s grace with the touch of a hand. We are alerted to look for Jesus’ touch in so many events that follow in his ministry — taking mud and spit to touch the blind man’s eyes, holding little children in his arms as he blesses them, taking the little dead girl’s hand and raising her from the dead, taking the simple loaves and fishes from the little boy and making a meal for a multitude, touching the dirt with his finger as he writes in the sand while facing down the mob who caught the woman in adultery, and offering Thomas his nail-scarred hands as proof of the resurrection, and as he stretches out his arms in love to offer those hands that shaped creation to be pierced by the very men who he formed in the wombs of their mothers.
The power of skin-on-skin touch is so much a part of our humanity whether it is the soft touch of a lover and lifetime spouse or the simple powdering of a baby’s freshly cleaned bottom or the tickle of a daddy on the ribs of his beloved child or the wrinkled hand of reassurance gripping tightly the hand of a friend who is slowly slipping away to walk with Jesus down better roads. No wonder heaven’s pre-existent and divine Word had to become flesh and walk among us.
I was reminded of this power afresh as a young mom wrestled with her 3 or 4 month old child trying to get her to take her bottle. The mom’s efforts were futile and the little girl was on a mighty crescendo until the mom discreetly lifted part of her blouse and laid her little girl against her skin and let her quietly nurse herself to sleep. As one baby grew quiet, the other little ones settled down, peace descended, and the atmosphere among our long-delayed band of travelers changed — one mother offering herself in such a sweet and simple way changed everything.
I am not sure how long this peace will continue, but long enough to let me finish my ramblings here. The point is very simple. There is great power in the human touch, especially from someone who loves us and genuinely cares about us. So in a week when grief and separation have hung in the air of every breath many of us have breathed, I would urge that you take this as a reminder to touch — hug, hold the hand, stroke the hair, rub the shoulders, or kiss the cheek of someone dear and remind them in both word and touch that they are precious to you.
So till we are reunited, my precious ones, your touch is in my mind and my love for you fills my heart as your faces fill my dreams.
Love you. God bless you. And may Jesus be real to your heart and your touch.