When I Need to Touch This

It is a bodily faith, this. 

And I need it.

It is for when all the light is drained out of me and I am numb.

It is for when I have felt the whirring of feelings too deeply, and for too long.

It is for when my friend’s six year old is in the hospital with leukemia and I don’t understand.

It is for when my faith is so lost and weak that I have nothing left to show my children.

Except for this.

This physical, bodily faith. 

This faith I can touch. 

I lean in and kiss the icon. I kiss Jesus, and I kiss Mary, and I kiss St. Nonna, my own saint.

I hand the prayer book to my son and I let him read the prayer of St. Ephraim, his saint, and we lumber down to our knees and put our foreheads to the floor three times. 

When we have to say “Lord have mercy” twelve times I count them off on my fingers. 

I hand my phone to my daughter and she knows which app to use – the one with the cross – and I feel guilty because I am not giving her the real Bible to touch, but she is touching with that one finger, she is seeing the words lit up, she is reading them aloud to us, and just the sight of her lips moving and the eagerness in her voice help me.

On my day off I watch the time and I make myself be interrupted every three hours. I finger my prayer rope, and at each knot I make myself say the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 33 knots. 33 times.

I do the domestic liturgy: rinse dishes, unload and load the dishwasher, make the grocery list, fold clothes. Even these actions are a prayer. I touch, I touch these things in order to bless my family.

Sometimes I need to touch this. I need to feel the my forehead against the cold, wood floor. I need to feel the threads of each tiny knot between my fingers. I need to feel the icon under my lips. I need to feel the breath escaping me when I whisper the words. Sometimes I even miss a good old-fashioned altar call, not because of the words I need to say, but because I need to drape my body across the altar. I need to feel the wood under my arms. I need to feel the altar pushing back on my weeping body, on my bent knees.

I need to touch this faith because some days knowing is not enough. Because we live in a world where a lot of people believe a lot of different things, and it’s easy for me to get lost in it all. It’s easy for that thing I used to hold onto so strongly to be whisked away by my changing self, my doubt, my uncertainty, and also by my certainty. They’ve told me everything, and I am supposed to know, but I some days I feel like I don’t know.

Which is when I need to touch it, this thing I call faith.

And maybe, if I keep touching it, I will know it again, know it anew.


**This post was inspired by a post by Sarah Torna Roberts on prayer beads and a smaller way.


  1. Shelia says:

    I need to touch it too. To let the knowing be a visceral something deeper than words. And let it seep down inside me.

    Thank you for this, friend. For saying it so well.

  2. kksorrell says:

    Susan, that is the only way I can handle the monotonous repetition of the everyday chores: dishes, cooking, wiping down counters, laundry, making lunches, etc. By thinking of them as blessings or prayers for my family. Kathleen Norris said, “The activities I find most compatible with contemplation and writing are walking, baking bread, and washing dishes. I like the poet Donald Hall’s theory that poetic meter originates in the steady, repetitive rhythm of arms and legs in motion.” I tend to agree, although I don’t always LIKE doing those things. 🙂

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