Breaking Hearts and Birthdays

My oldest child turns 18 today. Because, like most 18-year-old young men he doesn’t want his mother publicly talking about him, I’ll save my personal comments for Facebook. (just kidding son).

Begin pregnant during Advent and giving birth between Christmas and Epiphany does, for the theologically inclined, cause one to think about love- particularly a parent’s love for their child and God’s love for us.

We can, of course, talk about ‘love’ as a concept and an emotion and as a state of being. But until we speak (and experience) love in particular embodied  ways the subject remains abstract.

The moment a child realizes their parents love them, rather than taking that love for granted, is an important step in understanding and recognizing love.

Falling in love opens one to a particular dimension of what it means to be human.

And becoming a mother ushered me into a transformational kind of love. Ushered isn’t exactly the right word. Blindsided comes closer to the reality of it. I love my parents. I love my brother. I love my husband. I love my friends. I love my cats.  But the love I have for my children is in a category of its own.

Because I have children, I now understand God’s love for us in a completely different way. I had and have a great father. But the biblical language of ‘father’  took on new depth and meaning when I became a mother.

With motherhood, I caught a glimpse of what God feels. Because I have hopes and dreams for my sons, I understand God’s hopes and dreams for us.

The Hebrew word, hesed, steadfast love. Now I know what that is. Not that I can explain it. But I know it. I’ve experienced it.

When Jesus longs to gather Jerusalem into his arms, as a mother hen gathers her chicks. I nod in recognition. I know the desire to keep my sons safe and the ache that comes with the knowledge that I can’t keep them completely safe. The tears Jesus weeps are tears I have wept.

When Paul writes nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. I know a little something about love that nothing can end, nothing can stop.

I most certainly don’t mean to suggest that people without children don’t know or experience love, especially God’s love, in true and life-giving ways. People can and do. And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that I have had a unique or special experience.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if most people understand all this without having children. In fact, I’m quiet sure I have been ( and continue to be) slower than most in figuring this out.

But for me, my experience of love became wider and deeper and more intense when my sons were born.  So Happy Birthday, oldest son. Thank you for breaking my heart open in the best way possible.

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