Like most couples, Betsy and I have “terms of endearment” that we use to communicate special intimacy to each other.
They warm our hearts and rekindle our love.
No, you may not know what they are.
Some of them are a bit . . . well, never mind.
A few days ago, we were talking in the car about my cancer (what else?) when she reached over, squeezed my hand, and said softly, “Oh, baby . . .”
I don’t think she has ever said this to me before.
It was a combination of her term, her tone, and her tenderness that melted my heart into a puddle of grateful love.
Tenderness – it’s a powerful and precious thing.
Particularly when it comes as a surprise, it pretty much undoes this boy these days.
Last week two young men knelt by my bed and asked me to pray for and bless them.
It was a holy moment of tenderness between us and God.
A few days earlier, I stood full of tears on my front porch with a physician friend whom I rarely am privileged to see.
Tender feelings of affection overwhelmed both of us as men.
If you’re a guy reading this, you’re probably thinking that my estrogen therapy needs to be stopped – immediately.
Perhaps – plus, I’ve noticed my breasts have also been getting sore – and larger.
But maybe I’m on to something.
What if tenderness is simply strength at its most vulnerable?
- To be tender is to risk my affections spilled out for you with unguarded intentionality.
- To be tender is to be emotionally connected to my heart’s response to your fears and pain.
- To be tender is to move towards you with a passion that is channeled to enrich your life.
- To be tender is to shock you with the depth of my heart that is FOR YOU.
A military officer told me this week that some men are “nice” to hide the fact that they have nothing to truly offer others by way of their strength.
Tenderness, in contrast, comes from a heart that is brimming with strong love and intentional desire.
It is concentrated, surprising love that expands to fill the heart of another.
With a look, or a word, or even just by being present, tenderness says:
- you are not alone in this.
- my heart is connected to yours with the strength of my empathy.
- I feel so strongly towards you that I have made myself vulnerable to your pain and loss.
- I want to offer you who I am to support who you are.
- Your resistance to any of this is futile.
Listen to how Paul describes it with regard to his feelings towards the Thessalonians:
“Having so fond an affection for you,
we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives,
because you had become very dear to us.”
– I Thessalonians 2:8
Note the richness of this relationship.
Something good is being transferred from him to them – the good news of God’s fierce love for us.
But this knowledge doesn’t come by way of email.
He got down and dirty and also shared his own soul with them.
I love this picture of doing life together.
This is what has made me so very rich – the love of God shared with me by men and women who also let me see both the glory and messiness of their lives.
Why did Paul do this?
He was full of tender love.
“Having so fond an affection for you.”
“Because you had become very dear to us.”
Do you have people in your life that you feel a tender and fond affection for – people that have become very dear to you?
When you risk showing that tenderness in sacrificial and surprising ways, the world becomes a lighter, better place.
Remember Jen Taylor and her friend, Joanna? (Outside the bedrails)
This was tender, sacrificial love over the long haul.
A gift of strength given tenderly to another as she passed into the glory that is to come.
A couple of weeks ago I had a strange dream.
I was on an old train in the very last car sitting by myself.
The train was about to depart when my dear friend Margie hurriedly came aboard my car.
Stowing her suitcase, she sat down primly in the seat across the aisle from me.
She said nothing, simply staring ahead of her.
When the conductor came to collect the tickets, he seems startled to see her there.
In a low voice he told her that she must move to a car further up the train.
Apparently my car was scheduled to be “de-coupled” during the trip.
Anyone in it would be in for quite a ride.
She whispered something to the conductor who simply replied, “Suit yourself,” and hurriedly left.
As the train lurched and left the station, she continued to stare ahead.
Finally, a few miles out, she spoke.
“I brought a deck of cards,” she said.
“Shouldn’t you go to the galley to get some gin and a couple of glasses?”
Tender presence – it’s giving the gift of yourself with your heart wide open.
“All love, all real, life-changing love, is substitutionary sacrifice.
You have never loved a broken person, you have never loved a guilty person,
you have never loved a hurting person except through substitutionary sacrifice.”
Thank you all for loving me so sacrificially – and tenderly.
© Ed Hague. All rights reserved.