1 Peter 3:8 (NRSV)
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
When we think of being tenderhearted, we think of being kind, compassionate, sympathetic, soft, and sensitive, but with a deeper nuance. Our care and compassion are dearer, more tender; our hearts are more fully involved. I find being “tenderhearted” happens more easily with children and animals. Their innocent, free spirits readily bring out my tender heart. Show me a commercial that depicts adults who are lonely, in poverty, or enduring hardships and I will be sympathetic and compassionate. But show me a hungry child or an abused animal, and my heart breaks.
What makes the difference? I wonder if I subconsciously protect my heart, picking and choosing which plights will be allowed to wound it. Maybe I inwardly reassure myself that someone else will care so I can save my tenderheartedness for loved ones, children and animals. Or I might actually help in some way, but my heart won’t be involved; it will just be “the right thing to do.” But keeping my heart from tenderness is not allowing it to grow.
For our Lenten practice, let’s try to be tenderhearted toward all people in all circumstances. Being tenderhearted means our hearts will hurt. They will ache with deep love and sympathy and care. But our hearts will be okay. Perhaps the wounds will even open our hearts to fill with more loving kindness. Bob Pierce, Founder of World Vision, once said, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” Today let’s allow our hearts to be broken.
What are the things that break your heart? Is there room for one more?
Our reminder symbol for today is a rock. May it remind us to not let our hearts become hardened, but allow them to be wounded and vulnerable, as well as soft and tender. May we remember that every hurting soul is a child of God who needs our tenderhearted love and care.
26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26 NRSV)
God of all tenderness and compassion,
Forgive me for those times when I am hardhearted or self-protecting or detached. So many people need my tenderhearted love- please show me who I might help with genuine care and concern. Remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. Thank you for loving me with your perfect, generous, tender love. Amen.