It was my third time attending a church service with my boyfriend; the first time attending one in his territory. When I first stepped into the church, I felt a little overwhelmed. Unlike most church services I have attended in my life, the main sanctuary greeted me with buzzing of voices and energetic movements. I tried to keep up with my boyfriend as he cut his way through the crowd, stopping briefly every now and then to say hi to his friends from Cedarville University while looking for two adjacent empty seats.
I wasn’t used to the level of noise and energy in the service. I tried to stay still most of the times when I felt slightly uncomfortable during the service, hoping it would go undetected. I had learnt that what I’m used to is not the only “right” way to worship God because I’m in no position to judge. The worship team chose “Beautiful Things” by Gungor as the closing song. The song was very familiar and I knew I must have heard it sometime, somewhere but my mind drew a blank for the singer/band name until my boyfriend mentioned it in the car ride back to Columbus after the service.
A little bit into the closing song, I felt an impulse to have my boyfriend’s hand in mine. I was surprised at the lack of hesitation I felt as I acted on it. I pulled his hand into mine and I held on to it tightly.
As the lyrics of “Beautiful Things” echoed in hundreds of voices throughout the sanctuary, with my boyfriend’s hand in mine, I felt profoundly at peace. We were worshiping God as individuals, yet physically connected to one another through the simple act of holding hands. Feeling my boyfriend’s fingers between mine wasn’t a distraction, it was a reassurance. I’m here with you. Together we stand before God, as a young couple, to worship and praise Him.
It was a beautiful and precious experience.
I was extremely aware that we were in the middle of a church service and that it’s not the most typical “hand-holding” situation as it is a holy place of worship. Yet I did not feel like I was doing anything wrong neither was I concerned about how other people might judge us. I used to judge couples who held hands or expressed their affection for one another physically during church. “They are clearly focusing on each other and not on God.” “Seriously? Can’t they control themselves till after the service?” In my pride and naivety, as usual, I became hasty to judge.
I feel that physical touch is like the widely misunderstood middle child. Man’s lust and sin have distorted it to be something that is usually viewed as “bad” because in our minds, physical touch is immediately linked to sex which leads to young couples having premarital sex. In this stern process of getting youths to abstain from sex (or anything that could possibly lead up to it) before marriage, the other aspects of physical touch have been shadowed and this has created an isolated view of physical touch.
The beauty of physical touch is hardly emphasized. And I’m talking about physical touch before marriage. In this day and age where sex before marriage is no longer a shocker, parents (and the like figures) work hard on making sure that their kids stay on track. It’s wonderful because it expresses their genuine love and concern for their children as it is the parents’ desire for them to make wise decisions which honor God.
Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel like there’s a severe imbalance. Sex before marriage is sinful and wrong and we appreciate these reminders and warnings because they are extremely important. At the same time, why are the positives of physical affection and how it can be used to enhance a dating relationship frequently (or almost always) left out of conversations? Of course, as with just about anything else in life, a balance has to be maintained in order for us to reap the benefits of it. Lose sight of the meaning and purpose of physical affection and indulge in it for personal pleasure, then you’re flirting with sin. Hold on to a warped view of physical affection and reject it, then you will miss out on one of the countless beautiful human experiences that God has created for man to enjoy and to use to draw closer to Him.
Our attention should not only be drawn to the downfalls of inappropriate and excessive physical affection. The advantages of a healthy and balanced physical relationship should be highlighted too so that we may strike a delicate balance, enjoy this powerful means of connecting with one another and through it experience the fullness of God’s love.