A friend I hadn’t seen in a while asked me the other day what was going on in my life. “Lots of death,” I said, filling in my response with examples.. Another thing going on was a moment of tenderness I saw in a man consoling his wife in a restaurant. I’ve been thinking for days about the tenderness I saw in both the restaurant and the deaths I described. It’s what we’re looking at in today’s episode. Tenderness in relationships found in unusual places.
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Last week’s episode, no. 180 was about finding joy in an unusual place. Today we’re going to look at tenderness in relationships, and two unusual places to find it. The first is in the context is death. It’s certainly an unusual place to think about tenderness, but I saw it at the funeral of Dennis, the husband of a former co-worker of mine who died unexpectedly.
I didn’t know him all that well, but I saw his tenderness in the photos of him with his wife and children. The slideshow that flashed across the screen at the front of the sanctuary showed a man who loved his family. You could see it in his smile. You could also hear it in what the pastor shared about him and his faithfulness and commitment to his family.
Another place I saw tenderness was at the memorial service for a longtime friend and missionary who succumbed to cancer. I couldn’t make it to the service in person, so I watched it online. He was a leader and visionary in his mission organization and several of his colleagues talked about what a kind and compassionate man he was. With tears in their eyes, they spoke of his humility and how he mentored each of them in ways that brought out the best in each one of them.
His wife and son also spoke. His wife, in particular, showed how devastated her loss has been. She spoke briefly about how much God hates death and the impact it has had on her. The tenderness in her loving relationship with her husband made the pain of her tragedy all the more difficult to watch.
Shouldering a difficult responsibility
The last example of death that’s been surrounding me lately began with a text I recently received from Martin, my former missionary friend. I talked about him in episodes 071 and 072.
Martin wrote. “Josephine went to be with Jesus this afternoon and is now again united with Suzanne.” Josephine was his wife Suzanne’s mother who lived with them. When Suzanne died two years ago, Martin became the prime caregiver of his mother-in-law.
This was a difficult responsibility for Martin in the context of his deep grief over losing his wife so suddenly and unexpectedly. It was also burdensome because of the significant health challenges his 80-something mother-in-law faced. I don’t know of many men who would have accepted this responsibility. Over the past two years, Martin and I talked about how wearisome it was for him.
But in his commitment to his mother-in-law, I saw a tenderness in his relationship to his deceased wife. By caring for her mother, Martin was honoring Suzanne. Both of them returned first from China and then Germany to move to Chicago for the sole purpose of caring for Josephine. And Martin followed through on that commitment even though his wife was no longer with him to help. It’s really quite a touching story of love.
Tenderness at a restaurant
Finally, In the midst of all this death I’ve been talking about, there was also a moment of tenderness I witnessed in a man consoling his wife in a restaurant. Not about death, but about money. I’ve been thinking about it for days.
I saw it played out on a weekend trip Janet and I took to a vacation spot in northeastern Wisconsin, Door County. There’s a well-known restaurant there we like to go to for breakfast, The White Gull Inn. While walking behind the hostess ushering us to our table, I spotted a young couple in their early 30s.
I only overheard a small part of their conversation as they talked over the menu options. It was when the husband leaned across the table to his wife, looked her in the eye, and with the most compassionate and reassuring of voices, said,
“…. we’re on vacation.”
It was a moment of tenderness I won’t soon forget. From what I could tell from hearing the husband and seeing his eyes and body language, “We’re on vacation” was code for,
“Don’t worry about the price, honey. Order what you’d really like. I know what you’d like is a little more expensive, but we’ve been pinching pennies all year. I know you worry about spending too much money, but just this once, treat yourself. You’re worth it. We’ll be okay with the money. We’ll figure it out. We’ve been saving for quite a while to do this. So enjoy yourself, please. Do it for me, okay? We’re on vacation.”
I could only see the back of the wife’s head, but I have a hunch there were tears in her eyes in response to the tenderness of her husband.
We’ve been there too
Janet and I are twice as old as this couple, and we’ve had a number of “…we’re on vacation” moments like this. Where because of our financial condition at the time, the price difference between two scrambled eggs and the Denver omelet seemed like half a mortgage payment.
I was so taken by this guy’s compassion for his wife. It encouraged me to be more like him. And then, several days after this tender moment in time, I thought of something else.
I wish I would have had the presence of mind to get the attention of their waitress and tell her to bring me their bill, and I would pay for it. Yeah, I wish I would have thought of that.
So what does all this mean for YOU?
I’ve talked about two unusual places where I found tenderness. At funerals and at a restaurant. How about you? I wonder what are the unusual places you’ve found tenderness displayed. My guess is there are more places all of us could witness tender relationship moments if we paid attention and looked for them. Now is as good a time as any to start.
Here’s the main takeaway I hope you remember from today’s episode
The tenderness you see in relationships, often in unusual places, can inspire us to develop and nurture tenderness in our own relationships. It’s worth the effort to look for it. We’ll be better people for it.
Relationship question of the month
Last week I introduced you to PodInBox.com, a website you can go to to leave a private voicemail for me. I would like to experiment with this tool to get listeners more involved with the episodes I’m planning for November, the month of Thanksgiving.
For example, I have a relationship question I’d like you to answer by going to podinbox.com/john. There you can record your answer to my question using your phone or computer. I’m going to call it my “Question of the Month.” With your answer, please include your name and where you’re from. It’s that simple. There’s nothing to write or prepare. Okay? Here’s the question:
What is a story from one of your relationships that you are especially thankful for?
It can be just about anything. Like a time someone was especially kind to you. Or maybe something you learned from a person in your life. It could be something you observed in a crowd or in the company of strangers. Just about anything involving a relationship you’re grateful for would be fair game.
I’ll need your response by 5 pm Central time on November 16. Just go to PodinBox.com/John to record your answer. If something comes to mind right now, head over to PodinBox.com/John and give me a call.
I’ll pick several responses to air on our Thanksgiving episode. Who knows, it could be yours! And if so, it will look good on your resume.
In closing, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode, either in writing or a phone call through PodinBox.com/John. I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, enough to put into practice what you’ve just heard about looking for tenderness in unusual places.
For when you do, it will help you experience the joy of relationships God desires for you. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Well, that’s it for today. If there’s someone in your life you think might like to hear what you just heard, please forward this episode on to them. The link is JohnCertalic.com/181. Or scroll down to the bottom of the show notes for this episode and click on one of the options in the yellow “Share This” bar.
And don’t forget to spread a little relational sunshine around the people you meet this week. Spark some joy for them. And I’ll see you again next time. Goodbye for now.
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