The Lifeblood of Relationships

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By Walt Albritton

Since my wife died, caring friends often ask me, “How are you doing?” It is a gracious way of asking if I am handling my sorrow well. They know that Dean’s death after 68 anniversaries left me with a heavy burden. But I sense as friends tenderly pose the question that they believe I am managing well my journey through grief. Their affection, bathed in hope, strengthens my spirit!

While I am confident that Dean is with Jesus, enjoying the reward of her faith, I still miss her presence in my life. Since I know where she is, I have not “lost” her, but I miss all the ways she blessed me daily. Most of all, I miss her constant affection.

“Affection” is a sweet, untainted and beautiful word. I love the sound of the word. But more than that, I love what the word means. It is, of course, another word for love but our culture has corrupted the word love. So affection is the best word to explain what I am talking about.

Animals are blessed by affection. My dog Buddy loves for me to touch him. But human beings cannot live well without affection; it is the lifeblood of human relationships. Affection is as important as the air we breathe. We shrivel up and die without it. If those dearest to me withhold affection, I am miserable. Receiving affection, I feel alive, for affection produces joy in my soul.

I loved the touch of my wife’s hand. I miss that. It meant the world to me when she expressed her affection by rubbing my brow, or my back, or simply taking my hand in hers. No words were necessary; her touch was enough.

I learned as a pastor the desperate need people have for affection while visiting a dying woman in the hospital. She had lost the capacity to speak but could still understand what I was saying. I spoke kind words to her, reminding her that God loved her and I loved her. She seldom smiled and the constant frown on her face was disconcerting.

One day the 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. 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. The coronavirus pandemic has robbed us of the privilege of expressing affection with a hug or even a handshake. I will be glad when we regain the privilege of respectful hugging.

I love it when my sons and family members hug me. I need their affection. I need for them to graciously receive my affection. Healthy relationships require reciprocal affection. When a little grandchild rushes into my arms to give me a hug, I experience a wonderful adrenaline rush of the best kind.

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 warmth. People who are lonely crave affection; they come alive when a friendly person offers tender loving care.

I love Jesus’ story about the prodigal son. He had grown weary of his father’s affection and wished his father dead. He demanded his inheritance and ran away from home. Having lost everything, and reduced to eating pig slop, he came home, fearing the worst from his father. Seeing the prodigal returning 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.

The Gospel writers tell us that when sick people came to Jesus, he “laid his hands on them” as he prayed for them. Imagine how people must have felt when the Savior of the world touched them affectionately! And the touch of the Master’s hand usually resulted in healing! My, what a Savior! And when the Savior said, “Love one another as I have loved you,” he was instructing his servants to use their affection to bless others.

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 indispensable. Lose it and we lose the joy of being alive. 

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