Category: Love, Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness

A Journey Through Love and Loss to Healing and Hope

A number of years ago, I read Sharon Butala‘s best-selling account of her life on a cattle ranch in southwest Saskatchewan. She was in her mid-thirties when she married her second husband, and made the move from her urban setting to his more isolated one, from an academic environment to country living. As she explored her new life and landscape, she discovered a new connection with the natural world and reflected deeply on rural life, belonging, and home. [...] Read More ›

We Do Not Tell Stories as They Are…

We do not tell stories as they are; we tell stories as we are… We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.

I don’t know the original source of this quote, but I came across it in Irish poet/theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama’s In the Shelter a few weeks ago and I’ve been chewing on it ever since. On the face of it, these words could be taken as expressing little more than the tired refrain of postmodernism. We don’t have access to anything like “objective truth”; we have access only to ourselves and our own inner states. The stories we tell are little more than the laborious outworkings of our own biographies. There cannot and could never be a genuinely true story, only stories that are true for me, true for you, true for whoever. Which is of course another way of saying that there are no true stories.  [...]


Tender: Showing Gentleness and Kindness

Tender adjective 
1. Showing gentleness and concern or sympathy 
2. (of food) easy to cut or chew, not tough 
    (of the body) sensitive to pain 
Tenderness noun 
1. gentleness and kindness 
2. sensitivity to pain 
A quick Google search tells me that the word tender, in all of its various forms, has fallen out of use steadily and dramatically since the 1800's.  Maybe that’s why, early in my tenure at Physical Therapy, I noticed it as it drifted gently across the far side of the large, open room.  I lay on my own table alone, staring at the ceiling and exercising my abs, when my ears caught wind of the word floating softly like a butterfly on a summer breeze. 
I listened as a young therapist asked, in a gentle, rolling central Pennsylvanian accent, “Is that tender?”  Although I couldn't see the other patient, I imagined the therapist gently moving his or her arm through a slow stretch, palpitating the muscle with deep attention and focus. 
The beauty of the word moved me as did the concern and care evident in the therapist's voice.  The fluttering word landed inside my chest, opening and closing its gentle wings and I gazed upon its intricate beauty as I continued my own careful stretching, flexing and bending.
Later that night I told my husband, “I heard the word ‘tender’ today.  It’s not something you hear very often, is it?  I was so struck by its beauty.” 
Noodling around online, observing the forms and uses of the word, I notice the breadth of its application.  Tenderness might describe a concrete physical reality, like a perfectly cooked pork loin or bruised muscle, but it also refers to an inward stance, a posture of the heart, if you will. 
For me, moments of tenderness, feel like a softening, a movement of openness toward the other that, inherently, leaves me vulnerable to pain – either the awareness of another's pain or the personal pain I might face if someone responds to my openness with attack.  It is often our most tender places that root us most deeply in the reality of our human vulnerabilities and, in that way, my own tenderness points beyond itself to yours, to the truth of our shared humanity.
I don’t know if the decline of the use of the word signifies a hardening of the heart among English language speakers, but I do find it interesting that the phrase’s demise parallels the advent of industrialization and the movement from tactile and interdependent agrarian life to more isolated and automated ways of life.  The less I depend on the natural world and my neighbor for my own well-being, the less I need to worry about your places of tenderness, the less I need to risk telling you about mine, in order to ensure survival. 
Of course, we lose something when we lose awareness of our tender places - in the physical realm we might compensate with a limping gait or inactivity.  In ignoring the tender places, we shut ourselves off from the possibility of their healing and become less tolerant of the tenderness of others.  Our current culture, here in the United States, is one in which it is often unsafe to either reveal or respond in tenderness.  In such an environment we lose not only connection and companionship, but also a fundamental truth about who we are and how we were created to live in relationship others and with the natural world in which we live.
I’d wager too, that when we lose the ability to be treat one another with tenderness, we also lose the ability to recognize tenderness as a key attribute of God.  Even without checking a concordance or delving into Greek and Hebrew word studies, I’m prone to accept Brennen Manning’s affirmation that “Scripture suggests that the essence of divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by tenderness.” 
Signs of this – the tenderheartedness of God – are all over scripture.  The willingness of God to be moved on our behalf, even at the risk of pain, is evident in the thread of love that weaves its way throughout the entirety of the Old Testament all the way through to that fundamental verse of the New Testament that declares, “God so loved the world that he sent . . .” 
Maybe this is a bit much to be making of a word that drifted into the focus of my attention one afternoon.  But maybe it's also possible that simple words and postures like tenderness and kindness hold the key to our future as a human race.  And if that's the case, then I'd like to suggest that we might start a return to tenderness by simply paying attention to the tender places that reveal themselves right in the middle of our daily lives.
The next time you feel the impulse to lash out at your spouse or that faceless troll online, it might be worth it to pause a moment or two to palpitate around in the depths of your being.  Gently ask yourself, "Is that tender?"  Or maybe, simply begin by paying attention to the way the people around you limp - emotionally, spiritually, physically - and spend some time daydreaming about what it would take to create a space where tenderness births an environment where real healing and recovery can begin.

A Journey of Suffering and Hope

During this Advent and Christmas season as we anticipate and celebrate the birth of Jesus, someone somewhere is dealing with the death of a loved one, with a miscarriage, with a painful job termination, an ongoing mental or physical illness, or some other situation that brings deep suffering, that causes them to wrestle with God’s role in all that they are going through. [ ...] Read More ›

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

This is the first week of Advent, the season where we anticipate the coming of Christ. It’s a time to hear and enter into the story of how Jesus came out of love to give his life for us. This grand love story of Christmas taps into a deep intuition we have about the centrality of love. We possess an inexplicable knowledge that if life has any meaning, it must have something to do with love. One could argue that all of our intuitions about morality and the meaning of life are at root an intuition about the supremacy of love. [...] The post The Greatest Love Story Ever Told appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Hope and Perseverance in Post-Election America

It’s been harder than usual to focus on words this past week. As I searched for words, I also walked, reviewing and reflecting upon the sights and sounds in my world since the election. Sights   Sounds For several weeks, I have looked forward to seeing Krista Tippett and Courtney Martin again, two friends I met through my work at the Fetzer Institute. I was invited to attend Courtney’s Minneapolis book launch for The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream. […]

Season After Pentecost: The Psalms Passage – Lamenting and mourning for all losses

“By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.” (Psalms 137:1) When I read the Lamentations passage of yesterday, I was reminded of this psalm, and here it is! I have to wonder if the writer of Lamentations and the psalmist were of the same time and place. It does seem in its histories Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem have similar sorrows and woes. […]

Day 5 of Subversive Joy: Anchor Day

Today is Thursday, Joy Hack Day. This morning, I was having an “I hate L.A. pity party” get these every so often— especially now that we’re entering autumn and I’m missing Boston. So, I declared that today is my Anchor Day, and I will do everything I can to find one thing I love about L.A.  So, the first thing I did was turn on the podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin (which is like a booster shot of joy) because her sister, Elizabeth lives here and when she talks about L.A., I get the sense that she truly loves this area.  Even though the episode was on, gift-giving, in the intro, Gretchen mentioned an earlier episode they did on reconnecting with old friends and the potential for happiness. [...]

Email Subscribe

Subscribe for blog posts sent to your email

Post Categories

MennoNerds on YouTube