We’re in the final days of the Write 31 Days challenge. While at first I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough to fill 31 entries, now I am scrambling to cover the topics I outlined. With four days remaining, it’s time to talk about the fifth and final of our senses, our sense of touch.
Thanks to WebMD, we know that our skin is the largest of the body’s organs, “with a total area of about 20 square feet.” Despite this fact reminding me of the grossness of Silence of Lambs (my worst movie choice ever—that’s a story in itself, which I’d be happy to share), it is fascinating that our bodies are essentially wrapped in giant receptors. Our skin tells us a lot about the world we move about it: temperature (external and internal), potential dangers, the nearness of loved ones, and the like. Without a sense of touch, our life would be greatly hindered if not cut short.
Leprosy is proof that we need a sense of touch to survive. As the disease progresses, it affects the skin and nerve endings, essentially numbing the body to the external world. Without a sense of hot or cold or pain, people who suffer from leprosy will not be draw a hand back from a hot stove or be aware of a cut on their foot. Injuries like these then become infected, causing ever greater complications. Today, we have treatment for leprosy. But centuries ago, we did not. Fear of the disease meant that lepers were outcasts, considered unclean. No one would touch them or live with them. They lived separate from everyone. It was certainly miserable and lonely. Jesus healed at least 11 people with leprosy: 1 in Galilee (see Matthew 8:1–4, Mark 1:40–45, Luke 5:12–15) and 10 between Samaria and Galilee (see Luke 17:11–19). Let’s look at the account from Mark’s Gospel:
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
Who knows how long this man had suffered, how the disease had ravaged his body, what sort of shame he had endured. He comes to Jesus, kneeling, begging for help. Interesting that his request was to be made clean—the unclean label was the reason he could not be in fellowship with others, why he was denied closeness with family and friends. Jesus was moved with pity for his pain, so He reached out to touch the man. How long had it been since someone had lovingly reached out to him? How long since this man had sensed the touch of kindness and warmth and care? Our sense of touch is essential to our physical health, but also to our emotional and mental health.
And so a proper sense of feeling in the world is essential. We speak about feeling spiritual things too—our souls serve as spiritual receptors, picking up on God’s nearness and care, identifying things unseen. But what if we contract spiritual leprosy? What if we can no longer sense our surroundings? I’m guessing the ramifications are similar: we slowly become detached from all fellowship with God and others… we become isolated and alone… we suffer.
I’m guessing that sort of existence looks a lot like the life of a zombie.