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Walter Albritton

September 23, 2018

 

The Transforming Power of Affection

 

            I like the word “affection.” It is a sweet, untainted word. But more than the word, I like affection. Like all human beings, I need affection. If those dearest to me withhold it, I am miserable. Receiving affection, I feel alive, for affection produces joy in the soul.

            I learned something I needed to know as a pastor while visiting a dying woman in the hospital. She had lost the capacity to speak but she could still understand what I was saying. As difficult as it was to talk to someone who could not respond with words, I spoke kind words to her, reminding her that God loved her and I loved her. Occasionally, she smiled but mostly she frowned as I spoke. It was disconcerting to see her frowning before and after I offered a brief prayer for her.

            The wise nurse attending her calmly suggested that I put my hand on her brow as I prayed. Gently, I did so. Immediately she broke into a beautiful smile that remained on her face as I finished praying and walked out of the room. Embarrassed, I realized the dear woman needed more than a prayer; she needed the affection of a kind hand on her forehead.

            When I greet family members or dear friends, I desire more than a handshake. I need a hug. I admit I am a hugger. When someone steps backward and simply extends a hand, I respect their decision but secretly wish for the affection that could have come from a respectful hug.

            I love it when my sons walk up to me and hug me. I need their affection. I need for them to graciously receive my affection. Healthy relationships require reciprocal affection.

            My wife and I have 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. Some of them are more affectionate than others. People are different. Some families do not practice hugging, so that gesture seems strange to the children raised in that environment. But when a little grandchild rushes into my arms to give me a hug, I feel a wonderful adrenaline rush of the best kind.

            I have read that sometimes babies will die in a nursery if no one ever hugs them. I can believe that. Babies need affection. Middle-aged people need affection. Old guys like me need affection.  

            Affection can be a smile, a tender touch, caring words or just a gentle pat on the shoulder. The heart is touched by words which convey fondness. People who are lonely crave affection, and they come alive when a friendly person offers even a little tender loving care.

            After 66 years of marriage I am addicted to my wife’s touch. I love it when she expresses her affection by rubbing my brow or my back or simply taking my hand in hers. No words are necessary. Her touch is enough.

            Like most preachers, I love to preach about the prodigal son. He had grown weary of his father’s affection, wished his father dead and run away to the far country of sin. Having lost everything, and reduced to eating pig slop, he came home, fearing the worst from his father. But, as Jesus tells the story, when the prodigal returns home, the father runs to meet his son and embraces him with tender, forgiving affection.  It is one of the most beautiful pictures of authentic affection in all literature.

            Yes, I love affection. I need it every day. I love to share affection with others, especially those whose smiles tell me they are blessed by my caring.

            There are many good things we may enjoy on this journey called life. Some we can do without. Some have fleeting value. But we must have affection! Its transforming power is as important as the air we breathe. Lose it and we lose the joy of being alive.

            Generously share tender affection with someone today. When you do, you will both be blessed. + + +