Nine Years of Learned Tenderness


Over the past few days, I have found myself talking with my former self. Cradling her first newborn in the hospital, she is recovering from her first c-section and beginning her adventure into the great unknown. Here are the words we have shared:

Fear not: the weakness you feel right now does not forebode some great disaster looming. This overwhelming sense of fragility and ignorance is the working of tenderness as it welcomes you into a new Way of Being in a Whole New World.

Tenderness might trigger fear within you, and it might make others around you uncomfortable, but tenderness is the birthplace of courage. It is from tenderness that courage will emerge as you need it.  Trust that it is only from within this tenderness that you will be able to find strength. In the trusting, you will find that the human body, yours and his, is pure miracle, breath by breath.

When it feels like the tenderness is breaking you, you will discover that it is breaking open something beautiful. Lean in. The ones who can witness your tenderness and remain by your side are the ones for the journey. Cherish these people.

You will find ease with this new life eventually, but the only road to get there will require the endurance of days. Accumulating days will lead one day to your rising with the dawn to discover that you have become the one this son has needed you to be.  It is you who is the only one for this job.  Shared tenderness and vulnerability have transformed into an immortal love.  Nine years later, as he is evolving before your eyes into a young man, you will find that love is so embedded between you both that you each carry it with you into the world, even when apart.

But this, young self, is more than you can even imagine now – which is a gift in and of itself.

Just breathe right now. Nestle your nose to his newborn head so that his scent can go all the way down to the depths of your memories. Trust yourself.  Trust your self – the one that God nurtured through your mother and father. Trust the Source who birthed all these selves. Delight in the radical foolishness of mortal beings raising one another.  Peace will be with you, c-section scars, and all.

It has been nine years of learning this tenderness and grit, true vulnerability, and grace that is each day’s passing.  There is so much more to learn together, but life is not a race, and wisdom is not meant only to be accumulated.  Nine years of lessons are cause for a deep breath that remembers and releases the beauty and the ache of motherhood’s life-long labor.

This child is more than the creation of his father and me, more than a product of my womb. He is God’s child.  God birthed him in our midst, laboring right alongside us and among us. The laboring continues, even today.

I stand today amazed, falling apart in reverence. I know that it is from a place of reverence and tenderness that I begin a new year – right where I began nine years ago when the world was born anew, when I was born, when it all began.

Here in awe and amazement, I whisper my pre-dawn birthday greetings to him. Wrapped in his fuzzy blanket and unwrapping his first present of the day, I whisper birthday greetings beyond him – for the marking of this anniversary is not just for him, but for the world that broken open, exposed and tender and beautiful, nine years ago. Happy birthday to us all.


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