The tenderness of God

This is a good place to start with Daniel’s books and is likely to touch themes one might not have considered before. It’s a book that points the way into many of the themes that Daniel explores in his writings. In particular, there is the theme which in French is pudeur, the pudeur of God, a word which, perhaps typically of the forthright nature of English language, we can’t readily translate. It implies a sense of modesty, of reserve, delicacy, almost of shame; and applied to God, it is a sense of reluctance to talk about self, and one’s strong feelings, particularly of tenderness.

In his introductory chapter, Daniel sees God’s tenderness exemplified in Jesus’ response to the widow of Nain (Luke 7:13), “he was moved with compassion.”  He proceeds to explore the tenderness evinced by Jesus under 3 headings: Compassionate Tenderness, Merciful Tenderness, and Infinite Tenderness. The first of these 3 chapters looks at Ezekiel 16, the birth of Jerusalem — where the tenderness of God is focused in compassion on the innocent. The second chapter is from Jeremiah 31:18–20, where God extends merciful tenderness to guilty Ephraim. Then the final chapter has to do with Isaiah 25:6–9, where God wipes away the tears from every eye. The focus is always on God’s tenderness. The following are a few excerpts.

The tenderness of God . . . these simple words are so great, so far beyond understanding, so holy, that there is little to do but prostrate oneself on the ground in silence! Such a subject certainly cannot be approached as simply a theme for reflection to satisfy our intellectual curiosity; it is a mystery, an unfathomable mystery, which plunges us into the depths of the heart of God . . . The tenderness of God; the subject is enough to cause one’s lips to be sealed forever in humble silence . . . I would never have dared to speak of such a great mystery had I not been invited to do so by my spiritual father, Father Etienne, who one day said to me simply, “You know, Daniel, it would be good if you spoke to us about the tenderness of God.” I accepted this word in profound silence and I prayed . . . Another factor which impels me to write is the thirst for tenderness among the people around us; there are so many, young and old, who are ready to undertake almost anything, do anything, no matter what, because of this longing; and for so many of them, young and old, it becomes a hopeless search; they never suspect, far less know, that the most extraordinary tenderness is God’s, that the very source of all tenderness is in him.

“I am moved inwardly.” Here God reveals to us that he is deeply moved, inwardly. It is God himself who, on one hand, unveils his tenderness . . .  he who hides from one and unveils to other, as it seems best to him. We need simply to take this in and be silent, as was Jeremiah before such a great mystery. Jeremiah is silent before something God had never previously revealed in such terms. God veils and unveils at one and the same time in a great mystery, a mystery which we see incarnated in Jesus Christ, the mystery which was hidden since before the foundation of the world and unveiled in the fullness of time, [Jesus] the tenderness of God incarnated . . . To watch the Father wiping tears away from every face could not but birth in us an immense tenderness towards him. We will then be overwhelmed with this tenderness and in an instant our hearts, until then so hard and insensitive to the tenderness of God, will become soft and tender. We will be transformed in our hearts by this act alone, and our innermost beings moved with tenderness . . .

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