Probably the most meaningless apology we give in our culture is the one we express when we accidently brush against someone in a crowd. Our response is something like “I’m sorry,” or “Excuse me” and it’s nearly as useless as the “gesundheit” offered after a sneeze.
I say useless because our touch is likely just an unintentional brush with someone sharing the same space we occupy. We apologize more because we’ve committed a social faux-pas than because we are actually sorry.
No, this column isn’t a rant against good manners; I just think it’s too bad we have to say we’re sorry for giving someone a human touch, accidental or otherwise.
Truthfully, our apology might be better spent in those moments when we fail to give people a caring touch. I really think that it is our failure to touch that is often much more harmful.
There’s an incident recorded in the Christian gospels about a woman who sought a healing touch for 12 years. She was sick with a bleeding disorder and spent her savings on doctors who proved unable to help her.
In desperation, she used the crowd cover to surreptitiously touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. The Biblical record claims that this brush with the divine miraculously healed the woman and stopped her hemorrhaging.
Interestingly enough, instead of saying, “Pardon me, ma’am,” Jesus asked, “Who touched me?”
The dumbfounded disciples responded with “Didn’t you notice that you’re in a crowd?” Their question implies that they were annoyed with Jesus’ expectation that they would be able to identify any specific individual in such a large crowd. Anyone who has experienced a pressing Independence Day crowd or the bustle of holiday shoppers knows the impossibility of Jesus’ question.
The truth is that touching someone or seeking the touch of another is always a risky thing. If, like this woman, you touch someone seeking help, you risk the humiliation of rejection. Perhaps that’s why Jesus’ question made this woman duck in shame.
Perhaps she thought, “Who am I to approach such a masterful teacher for healing? What makes me think I’m that important?”
That’s what shame does to us. It causes us to question ourselves to the point of diminishing our worth. It causes us to distance ourselves from those who would help us.
According to Luke 8, “Jesus insisted, ‘Someone touched me. I felt power discharging from me.’ Immediately the woman blurted out her story, why she touched him and how at that same moment she was healed.”
However, it was what Jesus said next that interests me most. “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!”
At the end of the day, faith always is about risk. It’s risking something you have to receive something of higher value: your personal healing.
In reading the story, you might ask, “This woman had nothing to lose, so why wouldn’t she risk touching Jesus?” Yet, I suspect she had a great deal to lose. After all, she had somehow managed a precarious existence for 12 years and with that single touch, she risked losing everything.
When I consider how she risked her status quo for a touch from God, I have to ask myself, where is my faith? And what do I risk? My prayer for us today is that we take that risk. Seek a touch and seek to be touched. Live well, live blessed.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He works as a chaplain for both the Sacramento VA Hospital and the Air National Guard. Leave recorded comments at (843) 608-9715.