Sunday, January 8, 2017

A year for tenderness

My best friend and I have had a tradition of picking a word at the beginning of each New Year, a word that we want to focus on for the 12 months to come. Usually the words are tied to our hopes and dreams, or to personal attributes that we want to work on.

2016's word was Trust, and it turned out to be a year in which I had to do lot of work on my trust in God. There were a lot of times when it was hard to see Her and Him working in the details of my life and the lives of those around me. It required a real effort on my part to let go of my own ego (a never-ending battle) and really listen to the people in my life so that I could love them better.

And though it was a very difficult year in many regards, I reaped many benefits, including the commitment to more regular centering prayer and a greater openness to possibilities even in situations that seem negative. God is in charge, and I think my trust in His and Her goodness and mercy increased in 2016. Even so, it was a tough year that broke me and some of the people around me in unexpected ways. Being brought to our knees by circumstances beyond our control is humbling and, to be frank, exhausting. I don't think I've ever cried as much as I did in 2016, angry, sad, and happy tears, but perhaps that just means I'm getting softer as I age!

When I was in Taizé in October, I brought home a postcard of the Madonna of Tenderness, above, written by Frère Eric, and she is posted near my desk. See how tender the Mother and Child are to each other? His little hand wrapped around her neck, caressing her cheek behind the veil, her cheek against his? If we could all feel the tenderness of mother for child and child for mother more often in our lives, this world would be a much different, more hopeful place.

And so, my word for 2017 is tenderness. I need a little more tenderness in my life. I need to be more tender toward the people around me, and I also need them to be tender toward me. I want to see the world become a place where tenderness and forgiveness and acceptance is chosen ahead of blaming and anger and apathy, where we can all find the peaceful places in our hearts and open them wider instead of becoming overprotective of what we think is ours. I want to remember that all the abundance of goodness, beauty and truth that we have has been given to us by our Tender God, our God who tends us and is attentive to us, our God who is more generous and loving than we can imagine.

That's my word, and I'm sticking to it.

If you were to pick a word for the year, what would you choose?


  1. TENDERNESS.....what a wonderful word for 2017!
    i too, pick a word....simplify & minimize have been a few of my recent ones
    i am having a HARD time picking my word this year! not sure why- but nothing is resonating with me.
    will keep you posted if i ever pick one...maybe it should be the opposite of procrastinate.ha ha..

  2. I think we need another crack at the year of Mercy. We didn't live it so well last year! I'll try again... but tenderness is beautiful too.

    1. I think tenderness and mercy grow from the same root, compassion.


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