Gifting Tenderness to a Broken World

The 18-month-old has learned to scream, at the top of his lungs, “I want that!” because his 3-year-old brother has modeled that for him. They’re the typical grandkids at that age, and we send a constant barrage of instruction their way. Be kind. Ask him nicely. Can you share, please? Let’s not scream at your little brother. Don’t push. Don’t throw that at him. It’s mostly exhausting.

But the other day, that sweet baby came to my house with a low-grade fever. He sat next to me in a lethargic slump for an hour. Finally, I picked him up and laid him on my chest, and he immediately fell asleep. Then his three-year-old older brother grabbed a book and climbed up next to me. I inwardly sighed. It was like inviting a bull into your china closet. But Lewis looked at August sleeping, and a soft look came over his eyes. He opened up his book and looked at the pictures for a second and then reached over and very gently stroked August’s cheek. He quietly looked at his book for a few more minutes and then silently leaned over and rubbed August’s arm ever so softly. This went on for about 20 minutes, until August finally stirred and woke up. That sweet experience was a beautiful break in the brother-on-brother battle tiffs I’m used to refereeing.  

Can we talk about how harsh and violent the world is? I don’t need to tell you. You know about the cussing and the short tempers and the screaming and even the quieter jabs of passive-aggressive remarks and sarcastic insults. It hurts to live here, like living in a whole world full of self-centered three-year-old children who have no one to rein them in.

So, I don’t think we can talk enough about the ministry of tenderness.

It’s 7:20 a.m. as I write this, and I just took Matt’s morning cup of coffee to him in bed. I opened his peanut butter Kind bar and set it next to him on the nightstand. Then I leaned over and kissed him tenderly on the forehead, like I do every time I bring him coffee in the morning. In this moment, I always send an aching prayer over him, that the soft touch of my lips and all of my love and support will follow him all day long. Can a simple kiss accomplish that much for a person?

While I held the sleeping baby and repeatedly kissed his forehead, I reached over and rubbed Lewis’s back while he looked at his book. This is what the whole world needs. And this is where peace begins.

It starts with one person choosing tenderness in one moment with one other person. One soft look. One hand rubbing the back. One kiss on a forehead. One moment of patience to let someone cross the street. One second to bend down and pick up something that someone dropped. One encouraging text. One “I’m praying for you.” One opening of the door for someone with her hands full. One hour of listening to a friend who’s hurting. One thank you. One moment to push back the brutal abuse of the world.

The other day I walked into the grocery store followed by an elderly woman. I pulled out a cart and pushed it to her. She got a shocked look on her face, like I had done some heroic act. She thanked me and then started to walk away, but then she turned around and said, “You have something fluttery on your back.”

“I do?” I asked, and reached back to feel what was stuck there.

“Yes, it looks like angel wings,” she said.

You guys, all I did was hand the lady a grocery cart. I didn’t pull her to safety from a speeding car or save her from a burning building or perform the Heimlich maneuver. I just handed her a cart, but she acted like maybe I was the first person to see her and do something kind for her all day. And there’s a high likelihood that I was.

We live in the land of the shadow of death, and we constantly feel the darkness and the encroaching cruelty of night, but a light has dawned in the person of Jesus. We read that he is kind and good and loving and very, very patient. He likes to pull children into his lap and bless them. How will the world know Jesus is real? By the tenderness we demonstrate in our everyday interactions.

Sometimes my heart feels raw from all the evil around me, like it has been run over a cheese grater over and over again. If I feel that way, even though I live with a loving husband and have loving family and friends, how much more must people be hurting who don’t have love in their lives? Tender care is scarce these days, and we have the ability to change that for others all day long.

May I add a side note to mothers with small children? This is for my daughter, who is 24-7 trying to raise up these little boys: every single interaction you have with these children matters to the entire world. Your work, to teach them to be gentle and tender men, is what you are doing to push back the darkness. Fighting against the innate brutality of the human heart is no small battle. Don’t give up.


  1. Yep. Words we all need to hear. I shared this on FB this morning. I get that same shocked look when I do such a little thing for a stranger. Usually involving shopping carts! Ha-ha! I love taking people’s empy ones back in with me, if they they all done with them as I walk by. Puts a smile on their face EVERY time! 🙂 Such little, tender acts of kindness, really are BIG acts fighting back in this battle. Thank you for such sweet yet powerful words of encouragement.

  2. Whoa… having a little cry here in South Africa. So, so true. The condition of this world we live in… Thank you for this. x

    1. Shine your light in South Africa, dear sister. Let them see the tenderness of Jesus.

  3. Nancy Jo Garbutt says:

    I love, love, love this! So encouraging! A necessary reminder that God has not put us here to reflect the world, but to reflect the heart of Christ. How easy it is to forget that as we are immersed in the filth around us. This message wakes me up, grabs hold of me, and makes me want to pay attention! Where can I be more kind, to whom can I show God’s love today? Is it to the young couple outside who have unkind words for one another, and the whole neighborhood hears? Is it within the walls of my own house, where we strive to find our ‘new’ schedule in semi-retirement? Is at the store I’m about to walk into? The answer is yes, yes, yes! Thank you, dear Friend!

  4. Thelma Kahn says:

    Enjoyed the inspirational thoughts, so many unhappiness around so is good to hear good thoughts..

  5. I’ve followed you for about 10 years now since moving to Texas and this is one of my favorite pieces you’ve written. Not that I don’t love them all but this is so beautifully touching for a fellow sister with a raw heart from life in this world. Thank you for so faithfully using your gifts to minister with words that have healing power.

    1. I recognize your name, Alisha! Thank you for sticking with me so long. 🙂 There is so much pain in the world right now. It’s easy to start feeling like that’s all there is. I’m sure that God is using you where you are, to bring tenderness to the people around you.

  6. Lindsey Norman says:

    Time. Love. Tenderness. These are truly gifts that inspire peace while simultaneously helping us protect our own. It’s counterintuitive to the way the world works and yet, like you said, so desperately needed.

  7. Glori Smith says:

    Thank you for these words!

  8. Cheryl Wood says:

    You dear Sister, God uses His kind, sure, and hopeful truths to deeply minister to my heart. His blessings and His strength upon you this day.
    2 Thessalonians 3:3,5
    PS I am coming to the Flathead in July; we might be able to meet and attend worship together. (I am the lady from SW AR who wrote you a few years back about receiving your former pastor and his wife.)

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