“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 NIV
“A tender heart is a wakeful, watchful heart. It watches against sin in the soul, sin in the family, sin in the calling, sin in spiritual duties and performances.” John Bunyan
“I’ve never met a strong person who had an easy past,” was said to me by a wise person.
The very sad thing is many of us have felt and been rejected by their own church family. Yes, many of us Black Sheep/Scapegoat types were rejected by our family but when our church family where love is to reign and we’re rejected, this can be so devastating.
A woman, who was a member of my church, was disabled and her hygiene was, let’s say, very bad. You could be three rows behind her and the smell was very nauseating. Am I exaggerating? No. And everyone in the church gossiped, judged and avoided this woman. The Harvest dinner was on display with so many scrumptious items on the table. All of us were having a bountiful feast with good feelings, thankfulness and humor. Then the woman with the bad hygiene rolled in. She filled her plate, sat down and began to eat. Everyone else took their plate elsewhere or went home. The silence was palpable, as they say. The smell filled the kitchen.
What would a tender heart do? I failed the test. I avoided, which is a subtle but just as damaging way of rejection. What would Jesus do? Well, let’s see… He embraced and healed a demon-possessed man. He raised from the dead a man who had been in a hot, dry dusty tomb for over three days. How about cleaning very dirty and dusty feet? And I could not embrace a woman with bad hygiene. I could not, with an open heart, visit without judgment and learn of her circumstances. I have tears for my lack of tenderness and compassion for this woman. She passed away from ill health. Is she, like Lazarus, in the arms of Abraham?
Then my turn came. My husband was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. Many avoided me during this agonizing time. Some family and friends abandoned me. Dementia is still a scary, unpredictable and terminal disease.
Abandonment happens to everyone at some time when support, a tender heart is needed. Bewilderment along with loneliness may be the companions. Ask me if I have a tender heart now. I know it’s not perfect but some gigantic lessons have been learned. Scar tissue of the heart. Heart tenderizer.
Living with a tender heart. When times of rejection come even from our own Christian family, may we remember the Father’s son who gave everything for us and he too was rejected by his spiritual and his human family. It doesn’t mean we deny, suppress or avoid the pain. It hurts! But our Father will provide the healing, embracing and strength we need with a new and tender heart.
I did not have to be a person with bad hygiene to have a tender heart for the woman that did. I did not have to fix her. Just be with her. Validating her God-given worth would suffice. Our Father would do the rest. I would do anything for God but embrace a smelly woman? My friends did not have to know about dementia to provide a tender heart during my time of need. The old saying, “What would Jesus do?” is just another way of saying, “what would a tender heart do?”
Thank you for your tender heart towards us. There are so many times we’ve failed, didn’t fit the mold of a “good Christian, good boy/girl, good parent/child.” No matter what, every one of us is beloved by you. May we remember this. May we be a bit more tender, validating, compassionate toward the unlovely brought into our lives. We were unlovely too, even if it didn’t show on the outside.