Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mk 12:29).
“Mama, who do you love more? Me or Isabel?” My five-year-old son asked after a tiff with his sister. “I love you both with all of my heart,” I answer, pressing his blonde curls to my chest and kissing his head. He pulls away, frustrated. “You can’t love both of us with all your heart.” My heart swells with love for his precious little self, staring at me defiantly, wanting to know that he is special to me and cherished. “Oh, but I can and I do. Moms’ hearts are like that.” “Oh,” he smiles, satisfied. He gives me a quick hug and runs off to play.
Seven children on earth and nine in heaven, and I love every one of them with all of my heart. There are many others in that wholehearted group as well—my husband, parents, siblings—the list goes on. And of course: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. I love Jesus with every bit of my inadequate little heart, too.
As a child I felt that a proper response to this would be the cloister, where, undistracted, I would spend every hour expressing my undivided love for God with all of my heart. (No one who knew me and my constant movement was surprised when that was not the vocation God had for me). Now, as a mother and wife, my days are filled to overflowing with people I love. And yet, my love for God has grown with each new life to love. Love for him—bolstered by gratitude for the glorious uniqueness of every baby I got to hold, and all those I didn’t, and for the faithful love of my beloved husband.
I’ve pondered these things before—how loving my husband well flows into loving my children better, and then into loving God more. How loving God with all of my heart increases my capacity to love each person in my life with all of my heart. It’s the miracle of multiplication all over again. Raising my heart in thanksgiving to God, giving it all to him, I am then able to give all of my heart to each of my children, each person God has entrusted to me, and there is more love left over than I ever could have mustered on my own. Given all to God—that’s just what moms’ hearts are like.