The seashell called angel wing is delicate and exquisitely beautiful. One sometimes finds numbers of them on the shore when the tide recedes, their winsome loveliness resting gently on the sand. One wonders why they were not crushed to smithereens in the pounding of the huge waves that brought them in. Yet wave and wing coexist perfectly, appealing symbols of the infinite tenderness that blends with divine omnipotence.
If we find ourselves in a supposedly hopeless situation from which we see no issue, or if we are tired of fighting an illness that seems to drag on endlessly, or burdened with "impossible" family or work difficulties, it is time to discover or remember that we are cupped in the mighty hands of divine Love with such infinite tenderness that the problem, whatever it may be, will melt away. When we are at the heart of a trial, we may not feel that we are sure to be the victors. But what we humanly feel is not what matters. What matters is what is, divinely. God, omnipotent Being, Love, cradles His children firmly in His embrace; knowing this, we can be safe and free from whatever is unlike good.
The Bible is full of striking assurances of Love's tenderness. "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom,"1 Jesus, promises us (Luke 12:32). Why does God give us the kingdom? Not because of our struggles or our virtues, our belonging to a particular religion or church, or even our faith. No—it is simply the Father's good pleasure, in other words, His loving, joyful, free gift, which is ours to grasp when we open our hands and hearts.
Divine Love's tenderness has a motherly quality, in which even the strongest spiritual giants have found serenity and peace. Poetically, in this quiet assurance, the book of Isaiah expresses the rejuvenation we receive: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb." (Isa. 66:13, 14)2 The same book also describes the unshakable quality of God's tenderness in these words: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." (54:10)3
The love and gentleness of God: How often do we really ponder these qualities not just read about them, think about them, or look up references to them in Concordances, but really ponder them— that is, really listen to what Mind is telling us?
I was brought up with a stern concept of God, which left very little place, if any, for gentleness and tenderness. God appeared to be a menacing accountant, frowning down on me from far away. I felt in the desperate position of a man trying to climb a towering mountain, the sides of which were covered with soap. The steeper the climb and more strenuous my efforts, the more I seemed to slither backward. So one day I decided to abandon the whole concept. That couldn't be God, something told me. And I continued alone, as best I could, often turning round in circles, or so it seemed.
However, as I continued my seeking I discovered a whole new non-dual understanding of God. I saw the capital importance for individuals and nations of a right understanding of the divine nature: "The true idea of God gives the true understanding of Life and Love, robs the grave of victory, takes away all sin and the delusion that there are other minds, and destroys mortality," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of a non-dual approach to spirituality.
So many depressions, so many angers and vengeful or envious feelings, so many illnesses and tendencies toward self-condemnation can be traced back to a misconception of the nature of Deity, often instilled in childhood and held to by people, often without their knowing that they are holding on to it.
Yet how can one forgive (oneself or others) if one feels condemned? How can one love if one does not know and feel oneself to be infinitely cherished? How can one heal if one does not know oneself to be already, in one's true spiritual being, whole, holy, blessed? How can one express tenderness and compassion to others —and to plants, trees, and animals and the whole of creation—if one does not grasp, comprehend, and rejoice in the fact that at every single moment of our lives the infinite might of divine tenderness upholds us? This divine Life is truly our Life, and this Love is manifested in our unselfed love.
What a powerful undercurrent of warmth, tolerance, and compassion this understanding brings into our lives! For if we reflect every quality of the divine nature—as in truth we do—then we will also express this tenderness. We not only will not lose power but we will gain it.
Many people, especially men, because of the rather pitiful and erroneous concept of masculinity presented by the media, consider it a form of weakness to express tenderness and gentleness. One could hardly make a greater error! Jesus' whole life was filled with countless examples of compassion and gentleness: for instance, when he beckoned to him the little children the disciples considered bothersome and held them up as examples; when he treated with that special wisdom born of deep compassion the adulterous woman brought to him by an angry crowd of Pharisees; when he comforted the widow by restoring to life her only son.
Was this man weak who dared chase the moneylenders from the temple, rocking the staid and powerful religious establishment of his day? Was this man weak who walked serenely through a mob ready to throw him off a cliff? Was he weak who dared face the cross, knowing in advance all he would have to suffer, including the mockery of his enemies and the worse mockery of his closest friends abandoning him?
Jesus' unrelenting tenderness was proof that his quiet power stemmed from being rooted in the infinite depths of divine Love.
Real tenderness—not the mealy-mouthed, washy sentimentality people sometimes confuse with tenderness—can only be strong, because, as an expression of divine Love, it has behind it all the power of infinite Principle.
As we live this tender, faithful, and strong love in our daily lives, this greatest of all promises is realized for us, the promise of the Master: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14:23) Such is the infinite tenderness of Love. Ultimately, even we cannot deprive ourselves of it. It is ours today, tomorrow, and forever.