“The look in your eyes gives me permission to make the journey into the interior of myself and make peace…”
This morning I was looking for some inspiration and happened to pick up Brennan Manning’s book, “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus.” There is much wisdom in these pages, and I wanted to pass on a portion that has caused my heart to soar and mind to whirl. Over the course of the past week, I have had several conversations with amazing people who are struggling with the Love of God. Could this really be the way of Jesus?
[blockquote] I am not asking: Do you believe in love? That is abstract ideology. Agnostics and atheists can say that. What I am asking is: Can you say with conviction what the apostle John writes in his first letter: “I have come to know and believe in the love God has for me“? The last four words — “God has for me” — turn an abstract proposition into a personal relationship. This love is the content of our faith: It is a magnificent summary of all we believe. “The love God has for us” constitutes ultimate meaning and brings the peace and joy the world cannot give.
To believe means to realize not just with the head but also with the heart that God loves me in a creative, intimate, unique, reliable and tender way.
Tenderness is what happens to you when you know you are deeply and sincerely liked by someone. If you communicate to me that you like me, not just love me as a brother in Christ, you open up to me the possibility of self-respect, self-esteem and wholesome self-love. Your acceptance of me banishes my fears. My defense mechanisms — sarcasm, aloofness, name-dropping, self-righteousness, giving the appearance of having it all together — start to fall. I drop my mask and stop disguising my voice. You instill self-confidence in me and allow me to smile at my weaknesses and absurdities. The look in your eyes gives me permission to make the journey into the interior of myself and make peaces with that part of myself with which I could never find peace before. I become more open, sincere, vulnerable and affectionate. I too grow tender. [/blockquote]
I am struck by that last paragraph. As we work with men all over the globe, we see these defense mechanisms constantly at work. The one’s Manning lists here are just a few. I think one of the things men often struggle with is the idea of “tenderness.” Isn’t that a “woman” thing? The reality is that the image of God is found in both strength and tenderness, and that the display of tenderness (not softness, but tenderness) between men can be one of the most disarming things in the world.
Just thought I’d pass on something that has challenged me today, especially as I head into several conversations where I hope to bring the relentless tenderness of Jesus.