Tender is the Love That Sometimes Walks in Hard Boots

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Twenty-Four

It is so often easy to see faults in others, but often how difficult to recognize our own. Sometimes those of us who have done the greatest wrong are the first to pass judgement and be blind to justice.

Take for example the story of King David in the Bible. David, though a man after God’s own heart, succumbed to the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. His sin resulted in an unwanted pregnancy and a complicated plot that resulted in the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. The King tried to make everything right by marrying the woman carrying his illicit child.

Sometime later, Nathan the Prophet went to King David and told him of a poor man who had one little lamb which he dearly loved. A rich man who had a visitor would not sacrifice one of his own lambs but killed the poor man’s only lamb and prepared it as a meal for the visitor. King David was very angry and pronounced judgement on the rich man, until Nathan told David that DAVID himself was the man that had taken Uriah the Hittite’s wife and spoiled her for his own.

This story is found in II Samuel 11-12. It is hard to understand how a blessed King such as David could not see the grievous nature of his own sin but could so easily judge others. Bill Hybels suggests in his book (Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise) that such lapses in judgement are due to a lack of the fifth of five endangered characteristics of true character—love.

There are so many interpretations of the meaning of love that the word has become marginalized in recent years. People love everything from pets to ice cream to cars while the most important thing of all so often is left out—love for other people.

There is an episode of Leave It to Beaver in which Beaver’s friend Larry Mondello(?) gets his feelings hurt. He wanders around singing, “You only hurt. . .the ones you love.” How often this is true. Hybels identifies two types of love that are paradoxically and ironically visible in some people’s lives.

First, Hybels discussed the tender love that needs development in the lives of hardhearted people. Children raised in the same family often have very different character traits. One child loves to go deer hunting and bring home the prize buck, while the other cries because one of God’s most beautiful creatures has been slaughtered not for food for survival but just to hang a trophy on the wall. One child in a family almost wrecks his car to keep from killing a squirrel or dog in the road, while his sibling tries his best to make the animals a target for his automobile tires, rationalizing that the animals shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Once on my way to work I passed a girl waiting for the school bus. Her dog was racing down the hill from the opposite side of the road, and I ran over it and killed it before her very eyes. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the girl getting on the bus, though I couldn’t see the dog anywhere. I turned around and went back, secretly glad the girl was safely on the bus on her way to school so I wouldn’t have to deal with her hysterics. I knocked on the door of the girl’s house and got no answer. I left a note with my phone number asking her parents to call me so I could make restitution for the dog.

A coworker told me that I was out of my mind, that the dog was on an obvious suicide mission. The parents called me and asked if I could pay for the girl to get another dog. I was not overjoyed to fork over the dough, but at least I could rest in peace knowing that I had done the right thing.

In this example, I exercised tender love for a girl I didn’t even know and wouldn’t recognize if I saw her today and she looked as she did then. But there are many other times that I have been hardhearted with the very ones who love(d) me most. I remember the times I caused my mother to cry just by being hardhearted. With the true, unconditional love of a mother, she would chalk it up to my being “just like my daddy.” Many times the cares of the job and the worries of the world get taken out on my poor wife; though she bears the brunt of my frustrations and insecurities, everything is not her fault, and I actually often feel sorry for her having decided to chain herself in matrimony to a man who is sometimes so selfish and hardhearted.

Being hardhearted is in all of us. It surfaces when we tease others, then say when their feelings get hurt that it was all in fun, just a joke. It surfaces when others are trying to talk to us, and we are wrapped up in our own thoughts and worries and don’t give a sympathetic ear. It surfaces when we think we are better than others. It surfaces when we play favorites and ignore those who most need our attention.

But also in most of us is tenderness. I’ve seen it in the man who bursts into tears when a song reminds him of the mother he mistreated in his youth who is now beyond the weak apology. I’ve also seen it in the man who tortured kittens in his youth, only to have his favorite creature at the end of his life be a cat. It’s there in the supervisor who has compassion on an employee who has made mistakes and poor decisions, remembering the times he did similar unwise things in the early years on the job.

Sometimes we get too busy trying to get ahead to help those around us rise with us. As Old Fezziwig told a young Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1984 movie A Christmas Carol, “What a difference it makes, Ebenezer, to travel the rough road of life with the right female to help bear the burden. . .” In many instances, the word “female” could be substituted with “mentor”, “adviser”, “friend,” “confidant”, and the list could go on and on.

How easy it is to recite, but so hard to carry out, the words of the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12: “. . . whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them. . .” This is what we must do to evidence the second type of love that is often paradoxically visible in people’s lives, the topic of next week’s discussion.

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