I stood at the foot of the hill as my son came soaring down the grass on his first two-wheeled bike. His legs were stretched out on either side of him as he coasted downward, on his own for the first time. His hands gripped the handlebars until his knuckles were white and his cheeks burned red with his effort. The sheer exaltation on his face was brighter than the sun on our first warm Spring day.
I stood at the foot of the hill with my arms hovering in midair, frozen in their impossible habit of trying to be his safe landing. He was so young; yet here he was, getting older right in front of me.
I was proud. I was terrified. My whole heart was outside of my body – hurtling down a hillside as the sun set over our back field.
Was this what it felt like to be a mother? Overwhelmed as you watched your child’s story begin right before your eyes; terrified that you couldn’t always be the author?
Was this what my own mother felt as she raised me? As she helped raise her grandbabies?
I shot a glance at my husband beside me, our newborn sound asleep and nestled in the crook of his arm. Soon it would be her turn to soar down the hill and into her beautiful life.
I never knew what my mom’s heart went through over the years. I’d guessed, but never understood the beautiful heartbreak of motherhood until recently. I didn’t comprehend the way love could grow and grow and grow until it took your breath away. I’d been so afraid I didn’t have the capacity to love that well, but her example filled the space between us with the power of the human heart. She didn’t tell me, she showed me what it meant to be a mother figure.
I thought back over the last 30 years of my life with my mother. She loved the babies of her body. She wept for the tiny one she lost.
She guarded the neighborhood kids I brought home as I grew up. She fed the hungry college kids who invaded her kitchen. She welcomed the man I brought home to marry. She treasured my blue-eyed baby who called her Grammy. Her teary eyes watched the ultrasound hover over my stomach too many times to count as we waited and prayed for my youngest.
She’d die for ones that weren’t hers. She didn’t even have to be their mother to love like a mother.
The heart of my mother had multiplied again and again, and each piece was sincere and unconditional. The love of my mother was sacrificial and freely given. Her love showed me Jesus.
The office of motherhood is one to be honored, whether you are one, know one, or act as one in someone else’s life. Maternal love is sacred. Maternal love is powerful. If you didn’t receive it, you can still give it. If you had it, you can pass it down. It is a gift of the Father; an institution so valued that He gave His only Son into the care of a young woman that He turned into a mother.
The more of us there were, the more love my mother had to give. Lord, let me love like a mother.
The words my mom spoke to me over the years still echo in my head: “I’ll tell you what my mother told me: ‘Love doesn’t divide. It multiplies.’”
Thank you Jesus; she was right. With big love can come big fear, yet Jesus is the keeper of our hearts: even when they run outside of our bodies.
And so, I stood at the foot of the hill as my son came soaring down the grass on his first two-wheeled bike. He flew past me and onto the flat land, slowing himself down and planting his small Velcro shoes firmly on the soft earth. He turned his flushed face toward me in the fading sun, and I felt the strange burst of multiplication deep within my chest.
“Mom, are you watching me?” he called over his shoulder with a smile.