Nothing was special about it. We were simply praying over a fellow staff member. It’s a common occurrence. I’m always so thankful to be part of a church that prays regularly.

However, something so simple resounded in me so much.

I was standing closest to the staff member, so I placed my hand on his shoulder. This “laying on of hands” is a great practice. Behind me was my pastor, Mick. Because he couldn’t reach the staff member, he did the next best thing — Mick placed his hand on my shoulder.

Hours later, I can still feel the warmth of his touch. I can feel the impression it made on my shirt. My pastor’s touch gave me a wash of emotions and feelings. Nothing sinful. The very opposite.

I felt comforted. Assured. Confident. My pastor’s hand on my shoulder gave me a shot of strength.

You might consider someone’s hand on one’s shoulder during a prayer for another staff member a little much to gush over. But it helped me realize something.

I have almost no physical contact with my pastors. I may shake hands with them once a week. Perhaps there’s a playful shoulder smack during a monthly meeting.

But a hug? A ruffling of my hair? Or a lingering hand on my shoulder? That never happens.

I’ve honestly been poring over this concept for many weeks now: having some sort of physical contact with my pastors. I wasn’t sure if it was important or not, or if it would even make a difference in my life.

Yet today taught me otherwise.

I wrestle with this act of transference; in other words, I still seek the validation and affirmation I wanted from my father and older brothers through the men in my life who are older than myself or in positions of authority over me.

Textbook scenario really.

What I want really is for a relationship no longer available. I want to feel affirmed as a man by my father. However, he isn’t capable of this and our relationship wouldn’t be able to attain that level of trust even if he were. My brothers are in the same situation.

This is why I’ve always struggled with older men in authority over me.

I immediately struggle with this transference of my childhood experiences on them.

The first sign that someone is like my dad or older brothers, I shut down. Even a sign that he is not the same doesn’t help — simply prolongs the process and cements the transference in place.

So, now I face the haunting question: what can I do? What should I do? Obviously genuine touch from my pastors would be incredible. But how can I tell them? And how can I be sure that I don’t interpret the loving touches incorrectly and worsen the problem?

Before I knew it, the prayer ended and my pastor moved his hand. While the words were no longer echoing, I still felt his touch. Its impact will last on me, for sure.

Have you struggled with transference? Have you ever wanted physical affection from a pastor or other spiritual leader? Have you felt confident enough to ask for it?

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