We've probably all heard the story about the wife, a few years after the wedding, wistfully saying to her husband as they're driving in the car, "We don't sit close any more." And the husband, who's doing the driving, replies, "I'm still sitting in the same place." Of course, nowadays I'm not sure any cars are made with front bench seats like they used to be . . . sigh. How much marital closeness has been lost?!
Now that I'm a widow, I have a more vivid perspective on some things. Loss . . . tears have a way of clearing our vision. Do you know one of the things I miss most? Holding hands during prayer. My husband and I started that early on. In church or wherever, when someone prayed and we all bowed our heads, we would reach for each other's hand. There's something comforting and unifying about that. It was simple and unobtrusive, but the warmth of holding hands reminded us that we belonged; we were in this together.
In our culture, sadly enough, "PDAs" are generally practiced by unmarried couples. Then once the familiarity of marriage sets in, the small affectionate touches sort of drop by the wayside somewhere along the way. This is so BACKWARDS! Affectionate touch is supposed to be reserved for marriage; it is the sign and symbol of marital relationship. Without words it says, "You are mine and I am yours."
Whenever I see an older couple walking together on the beach or even on the sidewalk through town and they're not holding hands, I have to hold myself back from running up to them and asking (with a touch of reprimand in my voice), "Why aren't you holding hands?" Do they not realize what they have and how precious it is that they are still together? Even if I'm sitting in church with another married couple in the same pew, when the pastor or someone starts to pray, I want to nudge the couple and whisper, "Hold hands."
Holding hands is so simple, so easy. It's a connection. But there was a time in our marriage when even this simplest of affectionate love came difficult. Reaching out to hold his hand, though he was sitting right next to me, seemed like reaching across a chasm wider than the Grand Canyon. Our hands can feel like leaden weights, too heavy to pick up and move even the smallest distance. Maybe you're there now with your spouse. At that point we have to make some life-altering decisions. Will we live by our feelings, letting our soul dictate our actions? Or will we live by grace, allowing the Spirit within our rebirthed spirit be Lord of our lives? Will we hold onto the hurt, nurse the grudge, withhold affection, or will we remember our vows, breach the chasm, reach out . . . and take hands?
Paul instructs older women to teach younger women to "phileo" or love their husbands with a close friendship that's rich with emotion. One of the definitions of phileo in the Strong's concordance is "to show signs of love." Holding hands is one way of showing this affectionate, "phileo" kind of love. Each time we take each other's hand we speak with our actions, "You are mine. I belong to you. I choose you . . . again and again and again." It's one of the privileges of marriage. It's warm and comforting and sweet.
So, hold hands—whenever you can.