Every day it seems I notice my boys swelling a bit. Don’t worry – they’re not sick. They’re just growing.
Their bellies swell with the fullness of a simple meal. Their calves swell with overuse in reckless play. Their language swells; new words and more correct pronunciations and verb conjugations are on the rise. Their brains swell with scientific inquiry and quicker math calculations. Their comprehension swells as they begin actually to understand the letters that become words that become sentences, paragraphs, concepts, meaning. Their sense of humor swells and their jokes mature – at least a bit (phew). Their souls swell as their world (and their God?) becomes ever bigger, ever scarier, ever more lavish.
As a parent, I often feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of growing them up in each of these ways. I am always failing, forgetting, or neglecting at least one of these ways in which they need me (or someone) to help them grow up; I can only pray and hope not to fail, forget, or neglect the few which are most important.
I’ve been mulling over the focus of most of my own growth lately. I’ve been considering what seems to be God’s priority in growing me up in these past few years. Maybe it’s actually God’s priority for my whole life, for all of our whole lives. It seems like one way you could summarize it is: hearts swelling with Love.
In the end it really doesn’t matter how smart I am or not, how talented I am or not, how rich I am or not. In the end doesn’t it really only matter that my heart is still swelling, expanding, bursting with more and more Love for more and more kinds of people, for more and more actual people? No wonder God keeps putting difficult-for-me people in my life. No wonder God keeps hand-delivering unlovely-to-me people on my doorstep. No wonder God keeps bursting through my comfortable circle of likable people with nuisance-to-me people.
And no wonder God will no longer let me just ignore entire people groups toward which I feel generally insecure, judgmental, or interactively inexperienced. Because my heart needs more swelling with love.
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When I was pregnant with my second child, I remember distinctly that I wondered often, “Is my heart big enough? Could there possibly be room in my heart for at least a doubling of the kind of that immense, irrational Love I feel toward my first child?? How could there be?” I was doubtful. It wasn’t that my second child wouldn’t be as worthy or as loveable; it was that my heart felt like it was always nearly already bursting with Love. I just wasn’t sure I could take it.
And then. In those very first moments of clutching my second baby boy to my chest, too exhausted even to cry, I knew. No, there hadn’t been room in my heart — yet. But my heart swelled. And I could feel it swelling and I was amazed to find that my heart was designed, intended, even meant to swell to be large enough for that much Love. Altogether new landscapes of Love opened up to me. Again. Yes. My heart hadn’t been big enough, but it became big enough.
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Yes, indeed. And now each new difficult-to-me person brings conviction that my heart has even more need for expansion. (How embarrassing, how appalling, how shriveled, how tidy all of my former hearts look to me! How could they possibly have seemed to me to be so ample in their time?? Ugh.)
Lord, if You do nothing else in us, swell our hearts with Love. And help me to make that the most important thing in my life as a mom – to participate with You in helping my boys’ hearts swell with Love.