Surprised by God–Tough and Tender

I am so excited. My 10 year project has come to fruition–Surprised by God: A Journey of Divine Discovery is here! This has been an amazing adventure and  journey of faith. Over the past ten years I thought I was writing a book, only to discover the book was writing me.

I am sharing in my blog,, excerpts from SBG hoping to give you tidbits of truth to enrich your experience of God’s limitless love for each of us. This excerpt is from chapter 1, Divinely Designed Relationships.

Growing up, I often felt that there were two very different people inside of me. One was strong and tough, rough and rambunctious. A high-energy child, I loved being active outdoors and playing sports. More than one adult would have labeled me as wild. At the same time, there was this other part of me that was sympathetic and tenderhearted. I was a natural caretaker and defender of those who were vulnerable and hurting.

These two sides of me seemed opposites, especially as I got older. How could I play sports fearlessly if I was also inclined to be a caregiver? How could I protect myself behind a macho image if I let my tender heart show? This dichotomy was uncomfortable, and I found myself wrestling with who I really was and what it meant to be me. Sometimes my wrestling was of a more literal sort—such as the day I thought I broke my brother, Charlie’s ribs.

When I was five years old, Charlie, who was fourteen years my senior, left for a four-year tour of active duty with the US Navy. The day he left was the saddest of my life. So imagine my excitement when I was twelve and Charlie came home on leave. I couldn’t contain my exuberance at seeing my brother, who in many ways had been a second father to me, always taking time to play with me when I was little. I idolized Charlie, who in my eyes was this macho military guy, and I couldn’t wait to show him just how much I had grown.

He hadn’t been home more than ten minutes when we started to roughhouse on the driveway. At one point, I picked him up and threw him on the ground. Charlie didn’t get up right away. The pain in his side was excruciating; he was sure one of his ribs was broken. Instantly, I felt ashamed for hurting my brother. No matter that Charlie assured me it was an accident, that we were just playing—and he was fine—I felt responsible for his pain. As my tender, caregiver side came out, I not only wanted to make Charlie all better, I detested how physical I had been with him. In my mind, there just had to be something wrong with me.

The tension between being tough and tender has always been a troubling part of my being. I was never completely comfortable with either part alone. To be so caring and open toward others was just too vulnerable. To be a real warrior, capable of inflicting punishment on my opponent on the playing field, I believed I needed to deny my gentler side.file0002026387392

It took me twenty-five years and much personal growth work to unlock another contributing factor to the puzzle that was me: the abuse I had suffered in childhood, the memories of which I had buried deeply within myself.

I didn’t know then that in order to make peace with all of me—to understand and accept myself just as I am—I needed to experience unconditional love. I was longing to be seen and accepted for who I was without conditions, but long before I could open myself up to that type of experience with another person, I had to allow it to come from the source of my being: God.

Join me in this journey of personal discovery. Take a fresh look at yourself with the eyes of the Spirit. You make sense and I believe God wants us to heal, grow and be transformed into the image of Christ.

Get your own copy of Surprised by God at

One Response to “Surprised by God–Tough and Tender”
  1. Sue Blue 5 November 2015 at 11:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this Rich. Congratulations on your 10 years of creating this!

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Published: 05.11.2015 / 01:42 PM

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