Our cat loves to be stroked. When Glen and I sit too close, he huffs and then muscles in. One time Glen was stroking my head and he started head-butting the window in fury. (I realise this reflects worse on me than the cat, but you take simple pleasures where you can).
Humans too, love to be stroked. The baby, curling its fist around your fingers. Toddlers, cocooned from the world in daddy’s arms. Touch matters: but it’s not something we grow out of. If anything, the older we get, the harder it is to stay – connected. We miss intimacy and life can get really lonely. Physicality grounds us. Just a touch on the shoulder can be a reminder – you’re here. You’re real. I see you and you matter. This is not just a female thing. I remember hugging a friend at Bible college and watching in shock as his eyes filled with tears. ‘That’s the first time in months that anyone has given me a proper hug’ he said. ‘As a single guy, I can go weeks without anyone touching me’.
Of course there can be reasons – good ones – for setting boundaries in relationships. But Jesus seemed to be obeying a higher calling than ‘boundaries’ when He approached people. No-one thought He should lay hands on the children, or reach out to heal the leper, or let the prostitute kiss His feet, or eat with tax collectors and sinners. But He is the hands-on God. And there are times when following Him means moving closer.