Almost every morning, my wife and I watch the news. As missionaries, we make it a habit to stay on top of current events so we can monitor situations that might affect our teams. This past Christmas, for example, we cancelled a planned trip to Mexico because of security concerns.

The other morning, my wife couldn’t wait to tell me about a news report on the latest medical discovery. She was so enthusiastic I was sure someone had discovered a cure for cancer or a way to reconnect a quadriplegic’s nerves. Instead, she described a study done by the University of North Carolina that proved hugs are good for the body. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me: Hugging another person helps both parties! I had to sit down and catch my breath.

The report said a 30-second hug releases a chemical called oxytocin. And according to the report, this mysterious chemical offers many health benefits.

Up until now, I thought I had my bases covered. I hug my wife often, but I usually keep those hugs short and sweet. I figured I could give her all the oxytocin she needs if I hugged her for two seconds 15 times a day, But according to the report, the hug has to last for at least 30 seconds to have a positive effect. Do you have any idea how long that is? “One hush puppy, two hush puppies, three . . .” My arms will fall off before I finish my hug!

The study went on to state that couples who routinely hugged for at least 30 seconds experienced significant reductions in blood pressure. And those same hugging couples also had lower heart rates. The study said women receive greater benefits from hugs than men do. I didn’t need a scientist to tell me that.
All this has caused me to wonder exactly how much pressure one man can take. I’m already responsible for putting a roof over my wife’s head and food on our table, taking care of her medical expenses and helping her feel loved and protected. Now I’m responsible for her oxy-whatever-it-is levels, too?

My wife tells me this chemical gives a woman a sense of security and well-being. I thought that was my job! Because of one university study, my role as protector and provider has been reduced to that of a giver of 30-second hugs. And it gets worse. At the end of our conversation, my wife let me know I had some hugs to catch up on because she’s oxy-whatever-it-is-depleted.

For years, I’ve taught that men are to touch a woman in three ways. First, they have the responsibility of touching a woman’s mind by speaking worth and value into her. I take that from Proverbs 31. First the father, then the men of the church and finally the husband are to speak worth and value into a woman’s life. We accomplish this by saying, “I admire you because . . .” or “I appreciate you because . . .” (fill in the blank). In Proverbs 31, Solomon makes a long list of things the woman does that reveal her value.

Second, a man must touch a woman’s heart by speaking beauty into her. Every girl longs for her father to affirm her beauty. In fact, both our wives and our children derive part of their self-worth by looking into our eyes. The author of the Song of Solomon understood how to touch a woman’s heart. Like him, all we men need to do is agree with what God had already spoken. In Psalms 139:14, He tells us she is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Finally, God gives us the privilege of touching a woman’s body. Most women have a desire to be held and touched by their husband or father. Not long ago, I took my 4-year-old niece out to “Chicken and Away” (Chic-fil-A). As we got out of the car, she reached up and grabbed my hand. When we got home and I sat on the couch, she climbed up to snuggle beside me. Arms entwined in mine, she laid her little head on my shoulder. Even at an early age, a woman longs to be held by a man she loves.

All this means I have a hug problem. In addition to teaching about the three ways a man can touch a woman, I now need to add some information about oxy-whatever-it-is. So when you hug your wife or child, make sure some of those hugs last for at least 30 seconds. You don’t want to deprive your family of oxy-anything, do you?

By the way, Scripture mentions the power of touch again and again. “But Jesus came and touched them” (Matthew 17:7). Maybe, just maybe, He knew about this oxy-stuff . . . too.

Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)