Last Sunday, Fr. George at St. Anthony Church in Tulsa spoke about God's tender-heartedness. His text was one of the Orthros prayers that the priest prays while the chanter reads the six Orthros Psalms. The prayer beseeches God's mercy based on God's own tender-heartedness.
I have been thinking about this all morning. Initially, the impression I feel is one of relief--it is God's own tender- heartedness that motivates God's mercy. God pities me, God pities us, His heart is tender toward us--like my heart is tender toward my grandchildren. They are a handful, lost in an ever changing inner world, annoyingly pushing boundaries, blissfully unaware of the inconvenience and stress they create for their parents, overwhelmed by strong emotions that will take them years to control. And did I mention that they are adorable? Tender-heartedness. God is tender hearted toward us.
But while I may begin to experience a sliver of God's tender-heartedness with my grandchildren, I am miles away from sharing in God's tender-heartedness for everyone. God loves everyone much more than I have begun to love my grandchildren. God understands me, my weaknesses, my fears, my insecurities, my still unending childish tendencies much more than I understand and love my grandchildren. And just as God understands me, He understands you, He understands everyone. And here is the miracle that has captured my mind today: not that God could love so well, but that God could pour that same love into our hearts. God can make us tender-hearted too.
But a tender heart, like a tender sore spot, feels pain more quickly than a hard heart. Slowly, slowly God comforts us in our pain, taking away the fear, taking away the sting. Slowly, slowly we learn to trust in hope, to accept, to be at peace even in the pain. And then somehow even the pain is transformed. Somehow rejection and suffering and even death become gateways to life.
And then we can love. Then we can love the unlovely. Then tender-heartedness compels us to give ourselves not expecting anything in return.