Once at a young girl’s funeral, I had to make just such a decision. The girl’s father was a member of our church and an air force serviceman. He was an aide on Air Force One and had flown with the president many times. A few generals and lots of upper-crust brass attended the funeral. When it came time to review the open casket at the end of the service, I went to take my customary place at the head of the little casket. Standing in this needy place, I often hug family and friends, particularly at a child’s funeral. There is no kind of occasion that more elicits tears and touching than a child’s funeral.
On this particular occasion I looked at all the generals who were there, and I thought to myself, I must keep my respectful distance here. It is not my place to hug a general.
But as the people began to pass me by, one of the enlisted men, who was a pallbearer, came past me and hugged me. He was weeping, and I hugged him back. The next person by the casket was a general, and when he saw the serviceman ahead of him weeping for the child, tears filled his eyes. When he came to me, I took his hand to shake it, whereupon he reached out, grabbed my hand, and pulled me toward him. I hugged him as he wept. His open humanity gave all the other upper-level military brass permission to hug me.
Hugging generals was never a goal of mine, but I am grateful for the ministry of touch, and I hope you yourselves might realize that touching is one of the senses, and the one that is easiest to appropriate in following your calling. Remember the Prodigal Son; remember the waiting father. When the son returned, here is what the father did:
And he arose, and came to his father.
But when he was yet a great way off,
His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran,
And fell on his neck, and kissed him. (Luke 15:20 KJV)
Welcome penitents with touch.
Comfort the afflicted with touch.
Touch the world, and your compassion will be seen not as the mere pressing of your hand, but a literal passing of the fingers of God on all the woes of humankind.
The world gets well when you touch it.
Miller, C. (2011). Letters to a young pastor. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.