We are designed for hugs and holding hands and more. Touch IS a good gift from God. Healthy touch!
Maybe this truth has you clenching your jaw but don’t be too quick to run away from this conversation. Your current sexual addiction or your past sexual trauma may have twisted the idea of touch into dark confusion and shame.
If so, please stay. Perhaps you’re one of the many people during this pandemic going long stretches of time without an embrace, please stay. Touch and longing are not easy topics to bring up in conversation.
So, let this episode with Josh, Kit and Kyle be a starting point for you. We pray you won’t stay stuck in the messages about sexual desire from the world or how your family of origin framed it. We pray you will learn to understand basic desire as good and avoid the dangerous turns of shame.
For now, quiet the other messages on desire and invite God to tell you His truth for you and your body.
God created us for touch. Touch is actually really important and very good.
We paint people as the danger. What we want to do is untwist the misdirected desire away.
There’s a narrative in our culture that limits us in our thinking on sexual arousal. The cultural narrative on sexual arousal tells us, limiting us to “This is who you are. This is who you want. This is pointing you towards utmost satisfaction.”
- Inviting God into your moments of longing creates an ongoing conversation. So, when you do need Him, He can say; “Oh we know what that is. We’ve talked about that before. I’m here for you. I’m in this. Remember, here’s how we think about it.”
Here are some prayers:
- Lord, I’m sensing something that in my heart I know is not appropriate for this moment. Lord, help me to redirect. Help me to see this person through your eyes and not my own. Help me to recognize this is one of your image bearers and to see them as You see them.
- Lord, I know that at the heart of this is my desire to experience beauty and so this is the reaction I get when I see your beauty but Lord I want to be able to see beauty in a way that doesn’t defile.
2. You’ve heard our conversation on Healthy Touch. Now, we encourage you to find safe places to keep talking about these things- mentor, spiritual director or spiritual coach.
John 13:25 tells us the apostle John was resting on the breast of Jesus. That was a place he went to for comfort. God gave us imaginations. He allows us to insert ourselves into Scripture so maybe that’s a means of comfort in times of longing.
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
We have men and women coming to region, with all kinds of questions and struggles and concerns, and one area that some clients have come to us about is this area of healthy touch this idea of a gift, they’re struggling with pornography or other kinds of sexual addiction, or they’re single, or they haven’t had any understanding of what healthy touches and they get into trouble and don’t know what to do about how to not sexualize everything. And they really desire just a healthy experience of touch. And we just want to talk about that today. Like, where does that come from? how difficult that is? And where we might we find some answers. So Josh, and Kyle, we’re gonna talk about this together today. What are your thoughts about this?
I know this is prevalent, I know, it’s a big issue. I know, there’s a lot of confusion in our culture. I think when we talk about touch, we have to start with God’s original intent, his good gift of touch. So if we start with a problem, we’ll just end up compounding the problem. But we have to start with reality. The God created us for touch. And that touch is actually really important, and very, very good. To be human being is to be physical. And to be physical includes the reality that we are covered in skin that has so many sense senses to it, like we are, we’re designed for human touch. We’re designed for hugs and handholds, and Pat’s on the back and arms around the shoulder and embraces and kisses and all manner of things. And those are very, very good. And were and were created for sexual touch. And that’s very, very good, too. And God’s design. Yeah, Kyle, what would you add to that? I don’t want to.
Kyle Bowman 2:03
Yeah, I think also to think about the fact that I’m not to even despise that, right? Some people because they struggle with some sort of sexual addiction, then if they get touch, and then there is an arousal, there’s an immediate, oh, I’m bad, I’m dirty, I shouldn’t feel this way. And there’s a denial of the good of what’s happening in their body. And granted, you don’t, you don’t want it to send you in another direction. But you certainly don’t want to deny the good of what’s actually happening in your body. And that can feel a little uncomfortable for some folks, I think.
So I appreciate that. What you guys are saying is, Hey, this is an understandable thing. It’s an understandable thing that if we didn’t receive touch, or we didn’t learn about healthy touch, that that would be a desire, we would have that we would we would long for that, that it’s good that that basic desire for it is good. But that it can get, you know, confused. And so this, I think that’s a great starting point, if you have this desire, and you’re and you know that it’s not working in your life right now. Good. Like get talked to somebody about it lean into that don’t minimize it, or deny it, like how do you receive good healthy touch in your life.
So I think on the one hand, there might be people listening, who they’re just longing for touch. I remember talking to a guy not too long ago, who, because of COVID, he’s a single guy living alone most of the time. And I asked him, when was the last time somebody touched you physically touched you. And he stopped and thought about it. He said, I think he said three weeks ago, and I thought, Oh my gosh, like. So on that end of the spectrum, they’re just people longing for good, healthy touch on the other end of the spectrum, I think are people for whom touch has become something dangerous, either because of it, like it’s always turned into something sexual or it tends to be arousing for them in some way. Or, or they’ve been harmed by through physical touch. And so the physical touch from another person feels threatening in some way. And so there’s that can that can, confusion that takes place there. And, and we so we just want to start with this, this idea that wherever you are in that spectrum, you’re the desire for touch the need for touch is, is good. So and I think we’ve already mentioned this, but things go wrong. And we have to, we have to pay attention that we didn’t talk about and I’d love to hear from one of you talk one of you talked about we talked about kind of current life situations, but what about ways that touch gets confused based on things that happen in childhood? Can you talk about that? Oh, then
yeah, I mean, I think Unfortunately, there are lots of things that happen to us as children as impressionable children that that can confuse us, you know about is touch safe is any kind of touch safe. It is. So we can either be like, long for touching. So we we go after it in ways that we shouldn’t, or we get really uptight and we don’t want anybody to touch us. I mean, you know, can go both ways. And so, as children, we’re so impressionable, and we can interpret a lot of things, wrongly, and it can get us askew on this whole thing. So it’s just good really like to have these conversations, right? Because we might be sitting in our living room listening to this thinking, what I did, I thought I was alone in this, I didn’t, you know, I never thought about these things in my childhood that might have set me up for some confusion, although I experienced it now as a grown up. And so just to get it out there to be like, yeah, that that happens.
So here’s a, here’s a question for you, let’s let me get a little nitty gritty here. Say you’re a person and you’ve struggled with sexual sin. So and you find yourself going places in your thinking, when you’re around, people that are typically you’re drawn to it, you find them attractive, or you find them. Yeah, you just find them attractive. So say you’re a young man, and you’re at a youth group or a singles group. And, like, a touch from a young woman, it’s just hard, it just, you know, it charges you up somehow sexually. Or say you’re a person who has same sex attractions, and you you want to submit that area of your life to God, but when you try to hang out with people of the same gender, and their physical with you, it takes you in places that maybe concern you. It does that mean touches bad you do you steer clear of those people, then should you kind of set up some boundaries that I’m not going to, I’m not going to be around this kind of person, or I’m not going to, I’m going to you know, stay three feet away from these kind of people. Kyle, you’re smiling with what’s going on in your head, as I say that
Kyle Bowman 7:13
is I think some of the things to do will feel so counterintuitive. Because, you know, we’re taught right? When we’re kids, okay, the stove is hot, don’t touch it, because it’s hot, right? And so we will have that same kind of reaction when we get into a situation where maybe somebody gave us a hug, we go, whoo, wow, what just happened there, right? And we’ll go, Oh, that’s hot. Don’t touch it. And I think that’s a place that God invites us into, where he goes, okay? Bring me into that. And to be able to first of all, acknowledge, okay, I am still a human being my heart is pumping into the blood is going through my veins. So there’s a gift there. Just to let you know, that you’re, you’re operating your your body is operating the way God designed it. And then this this moment to be able to say, okay, Lord, I know that at the heart of this is my desire to experience beauty. And so this is what, this is the reaction I get, when I see your beauty. And, Lord, I want to be able to see beauty in a way that doesn’t defile. And so being able to even in a quick moment, if you have to say a quick prayer, in that moment, is being willing to do that, and, and not to be so quick to run away.
When I really appreciate about what you’re saying is that, you know, bringing God into everything, right. And so when we, when we know we have any kind of challenge or insecurity or issue, we can begin talking to God about it, so that in the moment when we need them, we’ll be able to hear him say, Oh, we know what that is. We’ve talked about that before. You know, I’m here for you. I’m in this, here’s how we think about it. Remember, here’s how we think about it. So I appreciate that.
And I and I think the other the other piece that I love about that, and we I want to underscore a couple things here one is I love the comparison to the hot stove, you know that that idea that if we can respond to people that way, when we inevitably do that is we we paint people as a danger. Whereas really like what we’re trying to do is untwist The, the the misdirected or misappropriating the desire or the the sexual arousal is happening at a time it’s it’s, it doesn’t belong. We’re trying to separate that from the the good of desire and the good of And even the good of sexual arousal. But the other thing I want to highlight there is is, this is not a matter of guilt, this isn’t a matter, like our bodies learn to respond in certain ways. And so there may be times where you find your body becoming sexually aroused at the site or the touch of another person. And it doesn’t automatically mean, oh, god, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I think sometimes in those moments, like, if we can have a posture of just contentment with the Lord, and, you know, oh, god, look at that, what’s, what’s going on there? You know, like, I’m, I’m starting to get charged up here, that doesn’t mean that we, you know, press forward, it doesn’t mean that there’s not room there, take a step away from a person, get some space, breathe. And certainly, we’re not talking about a situation where there’s, you know, there’s a sexual temptation happening both ways where it might go somewhere that God wouldn’t want it to go, but, but just rather to observe and be curious about, okay, it’s happening for me, Lord, I need some help unpacking this, I need some help figure out what to do next. And, to that, it also add, this is not something to just navigate through all on your own, like, you need some healthy other people in your life. Who can you can go to and say, so this happened. And they can help you pray through it and talk through it and not vilify the feelings, but but to begin talking to yourself and learning a new way forward.
So we are quick, aren’t we to judge ourselves and be shame ourselves. And that’s not helpful. It’s never helpful. It only causes more, you know, problem and confusion like that, just to be just to be like, Okay, all right, we know what that is, this is perfectly normal that this happens. Now I have a choice. I have a choice about how I respond to it. I’m not going to punish my body for doing what my body does. But I but I do now want to bring God into how I how I pursue whatever I’m feeling.
So let me push into that a little bit. Because I’m, I’m sensing that some people will be listening, and they’ll say, okay, you know, you’re talking about like a man hugging a woman and feeling aroused. And that’s, you know, quote unquote, perfectly normal, you just use this, but what about the person who says like, No, actually, it’s not perfectly normal, the way that I’m aroused, or the people that are around, you know, this, this, this girl’s my, my daughter’s age, I’m 60 years old, this is not appropriate, or this person is it’s another, it’s another guy, and you know, the other guys are hugging each other. They’re not aroused. I’m aroused. Like, so what do you say to that to a person who feels like, you know, this is not quote unquote, perfectly normal? How do you How can they demonstrate kindness towards themselves? How can you speak to that a little bit?
Kyle Bowman 12:51
Yeah, I think, again, it’s, it’s being able to be honest with God about where you are in that moment, into, into really be able to say, you know, Lord, I’m sensing something that in my heart, I know is not appropriate for this moment. So Lord, help me to redirect helped me to see this person through your eyes, and not my own, helped me to recognize that this is one of your image bears. And you want me to see them as you see them. And so some of that is really just being brave enough. Because even with stuff like that, people can be afraid to say to God, yeah, no, like, I had this desire toward this person. That’s, and it’s, it is inappropriate, people are afraid to say that, and are very quick to, you know, just as kids said, isn’t too They feel like the answer is, oh, how bad how badly Can I be rate myself so that I can beat myself into some sort of submission? And thinking that that’s gonna be the answer. And all that does is really just push you further into a cycle of, you get this arousal in this inappropriate situation, you beat yourself up, you feel horrible, and then it just keeps going. And so there’s still even in that there’s this opportunity to invite God into it.
I love it. What I love about that is, let’s just let’s just demystify this and say God, God is not shocked or appalled. When your body is aroused by whatever arises your body like he loves your body. And he knows he knows. And so he’s, he’s absolutely willing to be with you in it to help you in those situations.
And just like a perfect parent, which we’re not but a good parent would be, would want To say to a child who’s, you know, tempted by something, you know, you wouldn’t be like, Oh my gosh, that’s terrible, you would guide them, you would say, I understand. And here’s what’s good and right. And here’s what’s not, and you know, patiently, lovingly to teach. And so God wants to teach us, he wants to tell us the truth about things. And so all of us need God for sure. And we also need safe places don’t wait for reality checks, like, so. You know, and I and we, it’s not always easy to find that it’s not always easy to find that in church communities, or any kind of communities where we can actually come and say, these are some of the things I’m experiencing Is that normal? How do what do I do with that? How I think about that, but that’s important. And sometimes you do have to seek out a mentor, a spiritual coach, or director or counselor, you know, to do some reality checks.
Yeah, let me and can I take it? Can I, you, I just want to say one, anything else about that, because I want to take us in a little bit of a different direction that I hope will be helpful for people listening, go ahead. So I think that there’s a narrative in our culture about what sexual arousal means that I think is, is limits us in our understanding of when we feel sexually aroused. So I think the cultural understanding or idea about what sexual arousal means is, this is who you are, this is what you want. And this is this is pointing you towards most satisfaction. I mean, there’s kind of this we elevate idolized sex to such a place to say, you want it, you know, like, your body wants it, go for it. I think when we, when we really understand what sexual arousal is, when our bodies become sexually aroused, it doesn’t just mean I want sex. It actually our bodies are saying I want something more than sex. And if you don’t believe that, ask anybody who’s been sexually addicted, like it, the sex does not satisfy by itself. It’s not just two bodies merging that makes that makes sexual embrace, satisfying. So when your body is sexually aroused, in whatever situation, it helps, I think, to begin unpacking, like, what, what was I really, what was my body telling me? You know, I, I want connection, I want to be seen, to be really seen. And I really want to be deeply connected. What is it about that person that that you found arousing? And go beyond just the you know, the physical features? What are those physical features speak to you? You know, his chest, her breasts? What what is what does that speak to you like, comfort, strength, your body is longing for things and is communicating on an on a deeper level than just, I just want sex. And so I think some of what some of the ways that a good friend, a good mentor, a spiritual coach, therapist, to Holy Spirit can help us uncover in the areas of sexual arousal is to demystify some of you know why I’m feeling that way and help us to even go deeper into what we’re really longing for.
Kyle Bowman 18:12
Yeah, I think that’s so good, Josh. Because there is this whole, I think there’s, there’s an opportunity to even just think about, okay, what do you even think about desire, period, right? Because it’s just what what are the messages you’ve have received? And how to how do the messages you have received line up with what Scripture says, and what God’s intent was, because we tend to take our messages about sex and sexual desire from the world. Or whatever. However, your family of origin framed it, you know, because it could be bad, it could be dirty, it could be, you know, you can only do it in if you’re married, and you got to shut it down before then. So you got all of these other voices that are coming in about desire. And so how do you even just uproot that and plant a new truth in there? Just to understand truly, about the heart of desire?
It Kyle, can you can you rewind just a little bit, I want to kind of call timeout on the recording. She said that the one point you said and you’re like, you know, you got to save it, or you got to reserve it just for marriage. I think someone might misunderstand is like, like, Oh, I think she just said we could have sex outside of marriage. So Can Can you just rewind that? Because I think what you’re saying is so good. I wouldn’t want to get tripped somebody up with that. And we can have just Matthew kind of come in and edit. Can you give that another shot and then in the kitchen, are you going to say something?
Kyle Bowman 19:58
Yeah, so um, I think it’s important to kind of re construct what you think about when you think about desire, what does it mean to you? What are the messages you got? If you are you, you understand and know that you can’t have sex until you are in a committed marriage between a man and a woman, right? You know that to be true. But then you’re given this command that, you know, take this light switch, shut that off, until it’s time to get married. And then when you get married, you can flip it back on, and it’ll work just behind for you. And so being able just to deconstruct that message, and really rest in the truth of what is it that God says about desire, and what, you know, there’s a quote that, that Paul, David Tripp says, and he talks about, you know, every good and pleasurable thing should be should point you back to God. And so anything that’s pleasurable, should always point you back to God. And so if we could take that message, and get that one in our hearts, then we can grasp the good of desire. And to know that what’s happening at its, at the core level, is something that’s good and beautiful, and that God wants us to enjoy an experience and understand how to do that. Even if we are single people, how can you appreciate that I’m still, you know, this living, breathing person that God has created me to be? And so even how do I take that energy? And then turn that energy even into worship for God?
So good, Kyle. So we could we could spend a lot of time talking about that. But one thing you said, Sorry, I don’t want to rush past what you just said, I think is so good recapturing the importance of desire. So what about the single person who’s listening and says, Yeah, well, it has been three weeks seven touched, that’s all I can think about. I just want someone to touch me. And I know if I don’t get it, I’m just gonna be more and more tempted to look at porn to masturbate or to hook up with somebody. I don’t know. I mean, what, you know, fill in the blank. What do you say to that single person who’s we were saying beforehand, like, you know, if I’m deficient on vitamin C, in my life, I go out and I buy, you know, vitamin C, and I take it if I am hungry, I can go buy food, but there’s not. There’s not a, there’s not like a healthy touch room that you go to at your church like so. What do you do as a as a single person or any person kind of longing for touch, needing touch when it doesn’t seem available? And
Kyle Bowman 22:57
I sure wish I had like the, the million dollar answer. Right, right. Yes, go you go. And the truth is, I think it’s something that we have to wrestle through as individuals. Um, you know, as I was sharing with you all, like, you know, I heard a message preached on john 13, at verse 25, in the image of the apostle john, reclining on the breast of Jesus, and how, as he preached that, he talked about how that was a place that he went to for comfort. God gave us imaginations. And he gave us, he allows us to insert ourselves into scripture. And so maybe that’s a means of comfort for you, when you don’t have someone you immediately can put your hands on. Or, you know, maybe you have a pet, maybe your pet gets a little bit of extra love from you. Um, you know, so I think it’s gonna vary from person to person. But I do think it has to be something intentional. And you can’t like just sit back and go up. Let me just wait for the answer to fall out of the sky. I think you have to engage even where other places, even if you’re not getting healthy touch, where are the places that you are able to enjoy intimate conversation where you can talk with someone at the deepest level of your heart, and that you all can share with one another? Where are those places that you can, you know, connect in that way? And, and I think also walking into that, not expecting that that’s going to be the end all be all because we can also walk into those kinds of situations. think this is going to be it, this is going to solve everything, and I’m going to feel so much better. Um, but I think it’s only a piece of the puzzle. And I think it’s important to be willing to allow God to use it as he sees fit in helping you to have some contentment, some level of contentment without the immediate physical touch.
So I really appreciate all that you just said, Kyle, and I think that they’re, you know, interestingly, you know, you said, I wish I could have the million dollar answer, and there isn’t just one answer one formula, but you did say, a few steps that I think are really important. And one is you to imagine being with Jesus, and if that’s weird, like, allow yourself to be with Jesus to be held by Jesus. And if you know, that starts to be uncomfortable, just ask God to help you through it. Like it can take some practice, you know, some of these imaginations a sanctified imagination of being with Jesus, and allowing that to be something that you practice, or the idea of, you know, like, that, that really is a very realistic way to get healthy touch. And then the last thing you said was intimate conversation, you know, like, that can be a place to feel connected to. And maybe it’s not all, if you just get like, it has to be physical touch. And that’s the only thing I need. And we can become obsessed in a way that doesn’t allow us to realize that there are other ways also, to to find intimate connection, and to be realistic to with it with our expectations, and all of that. But I thought those were some good takeaways for those people who are listening, you’re like, Oh, I hope they say something that I can actually take away from today. It’s not a magic answer, or a formula. But those are some good things, I think that could be helpful.
And there is a tension in that to be because as as helpful as those things can be, we acknowledge that there will be times for some people where they will feel a longing for touch that is absent. And that’s hard. Yeah. And, and God is aware of that. And we want to encourage those listening both to honor the longing not to vilify the longing, not to take it sideways into some type of sexual sin, not to try to shut it down. And, you know, pretend like you don’t need it. But to recognize, too, that the God honors it, and here’s your longing and, and we wish we wish there was an easy answer. And for those who I think maybe I worked at churches and communities in general, like, we, like let’s lovingly affectionately, in non sexual ways, learn to embrace and be with one another. Because this is an important part of life. I mean, I know even as a married man, that there are times where an embrace from a from a male friend means something to my body, that an embrace my wife, doesn’t, doesn’t doesn’t touch. And so we do need those those places and to restore that kind of to Christian community. So but we’re out of time, and if any final words and from for me to review. Okay.
Kyle Bowman 28:25
Okay, for those who who are just struggling in this area, that there’s always hope. And there’s always a way to get through this. And hey, if you need to reach out to us here at regeneration, we certainly ask that you do that. And maybe there is a spiritual coach that can walk with you through that. But it’s certainly there’s certainly always hope.
Yeah, I just I love that. I think that, you know, at the end of the day, there are moments in life where we do have needs that are unfulfilled, and it’s hard to talk about it with each other. And let’s, you know, let’s be willing to, to be honest about it. And and that connects us, you know, in our that we all have unfulfilled needs and frustrations and struggles. And there’s hope because, you know, we have each other to like, talk it through and that God wants to be in it all with us, too. So, let me just take a moment to pray for all of us and all of who are listening today. Lord, we so appreciate that. Where we come to is, is that we trust you with whatever it is that we’re struggling with longing for. We don’t say that lightly. Lord, we know that it is truth that you promise to be with us tonight. Never leave us and especially Lord, when we invite you into these places of pain and fragility as human beings, you show up and you do minister to us, you know, take away all the issues and problems you but you with us in it and we’re so grateful for that word. So help us to open up our hearts to you being with us and all of these needs and wants and hopes. In Jesus name, amen.
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