There are times when a touch on my skin has made it crawl. I remember this feeling most clearly when I was pregnant and the crazy hormones pulsed throughout my body. Every sense was heightened during that strange and wonderful nine months. During that time, most everything that touched me sent prickles down my spine and registered on a scale of nausea.
But even today, that feeling returns every once in a while. Since then I have become more critical of that sickening feeling that results from a simple touch. I have no doubt it is still related to my crazy hormones. But I can now recognize that the source of this prickly icky response is not the one who touches me. It’s not my sweet caring husband who brushes his hand across my cheek, it is not my crazy adorable kids who want another hug, it is not my kind compassionate friend that squeezes my arm in reassurance – it’s something wrong within me.
Don’t touch me.
And the more I ponder, I realize (hormones or not) that these are the times when my internal struggle is the worst. These are the times when I haven’t showered all day and I can feel the thick film of life slathered all over. These are the times when my clothes don’t fit as well as they should and I no longer feel beautiful. These are the times when I’m annoyed that the house is a disaster and the kids don’t want to hear my voice anymore. These are the times when I’m hurt that the people who were supposed to love me have left me to figure it out on my own. These are the times when I know that I am not the person I want to be. These are the times when I am ashamed by the dirty selfish sinner that I see in the mirror.
Don’t touch me.
Leviticus 15 is a quaint little chapter from the Bible where God speaks about untouchable men and women. In a very personal and intimate way, these children of Israel were physically unclean and cut off from the temple, God’s dwelling place. In such a state, God’s perfection there would strike the unclean dead. This meant they couldn’t receive His word of blessing and life. But to make matters worse, anyone who touched these people (or even the bed they sat on) was also declared unclean. These “dirty” people must stay away from the place of worship, they must stay away from their community, they must abstain from another’s touch. Not to worry: when their physical impurity was cleared up, a sacrifice was offered and they were again favored by the Almighty God. Community was restored. Life and touch were a beautiful reality once more.
And I can’t help but wonder if my own shame and disappointment corresponds to the unclean women of Leviticus 15. The nasty impurities in my heart would kill me in the presence of God. The corruption leaks out from inside and cuts me off from the perfection that God commands. The thick film of a wickedly distracted life is slathered all over everything I do. God shows me I’m not beautiful and shames me by the dirty selfish sinner I see in His mirror.
Just don’t touch me.
A woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment. Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. (Matthew 9:20, 22)
According to the laws in Leviticus 15, this woman put herself and Jesus in a very dangerous situation. A woman’s twelve-year blood flow was enough to make her untouchable to everyone. It was serious enough to separate her from all of the people who should have loved her. It was deadly enough to kill her if she even touched the fringe of the Almighty God. Instead of waiting for her ritual reconciliation to be complete, this unclean woman touched the Temple of the New Covenant and boldly believed His words.
Jesus was the Almighty God dwelling in flesh among His people. But He lived to touch the unclean. He physically held those who were beyond hope. He gathered all of the untouchables and purified them completely for His Father in heaven. Jesus grabbed all death, sickness, sin and shame and died as the one and only untouchable sinner. He rose from the dead; so that life and touch are a beautiful reality for the unclean once more.
Might we be so bold as this dangerously unclean woman. Expect Jesus to heal the untouchable. Grasp tightly to the fringe of His garment and feel the cleansing water touch your skin. Taste eternal life and peace every time Christ touches your lips in bread and wine, body and blood. Listen for the forgiving touch of the Almighty and believe His words.