The Sense of Touch

Have you ever touched fire?

burning-logIntentionally? Accidentally? Yes… I have. Accidentally, of course. I’m sure we all have. Whether during cooking, or enjoying a camp fire. I remember in the early 60’s and we had frozen pipes. Granddad was with us, although I’m not sure I remember why. He promptly built up a fire next to the barn where the frozen pipe came out of the ground. Then he did the strangest thing I remember these 55 years later…

He grabbed a burning log and moved it from one place to another…

Literally! He picked up a burning log. And moved it. I later learned he had little sensation from years of hard work and was not really worried about pain. I don’t even remember scorched skin!

Through the years I have burned a finger while cooking, or working on a hot engine. I’ve learned that if I can immediately run cold water, or cover it with ice, then I can draw the heat out of the burned portion of skin and it will heal faster. It will hurt while the cold is applied, but the lasting effects will be minimized. And it will be sensitive to heat for a few days as healing progresses. Don’t believe me? Try it!

There is a wonderfully simple (maybe) article that describes what happens when we touch something, regardless of which portion of the body that is touching. (Read here) It also gives you some exercises to test how sense of touch and the brain communicates from various portions of the body. How does the brain know in a split second where the touch is coming from and what the sensation of the touch consists of? Is all touch essentially the same? Test it with heat, cold, something hard, something soft. Try something salty, on an open wound and you feel it like a burning fire! But put it on the same part without a wound and you feel nothing. Did the salt loose it’s power?

Imagine having lost a limb, and still have ghost feelings of touch that are impossible to feel. It’s like having your leg go to sleep and then you cannot walk. You remember how. You know how. But the leg, though there, cannot function. Now. Imagine the leg is really gone. I’ve heard amputees talk about feeling like the limb is still with them. It itches. They need to scratch…

I was thinking about the sensation of touch. At a visitor center in Alaska we were invited to reach into a darkened cupboard and feel something in hiding and describe it. It was scary, and very unfamiliar! Maybe it was a wolverine pelt, or was it a beaver? Bear? Can you tell the difference between a moose or a caribou? A garnet or a ruby? Which animal did this antler come from? 

Strange how our brains interpret something we can not see and process it into an answer of possibilities!

A woman came to Jesus with a great physical need and thought, “If I could but touch his clothes…I shall be made whole.” One gospel describes it as the hem of his garment, his robe, that portion that would drag the ground. It was not clean. It was filthy from the daily walk. In a crowd, would Jesus even know?

“Who Touched My Clothes?” (Mark 5:30) Not his hand. Or shoulder. But a brushed touch on his clothes. And from him went virtue, a force, a power…normally connected to a miracle. Caused by a simple touch, albeit by a desperate need! Just a touch. 

It was his touch that healed leprosy (Matthew 8:3),healed eyes (Matthew 9:29), unstopped ears (Luke 22:51), and even brought some back to life (Luke 8:54). There is something about the Master’s Touch. The power and ability of Jesus to touch and accomplish miracles!

There is an old story, a poem, that is nearly 100 years old. You may have heard it from others…

The Touch of the Master’s Hand, also sometimes called The Old Violin, is a Christian poem written in 1921 by Myra Brooks Welch. The poem tells of a battered old violin that is about to be sold as the last item at an auction for a pittance, until a violinist steps out of the audience and plays the instrument, demonstrating its beauty and true value. The auctioneer then significantly increases the bidding (from the nominal $1-$2 to $1,000-$2,000) only to have the audience ask why the bidding suddenly increased. The poem ends by comparing this instrument touched by the hand of a master musician to the life of a sinner that is touched by the hand of God. (Reference here)

Would you not want your tattered presence to be touched by someone who could tune your life up and make it better? You may have been through tumultuous times, but Jesus can pull you through.This is what I’m interested in…