My suitcase heart was always a sign. I’ve reflected about it again and again (and again and again), but it wasn’t until this year of spiritual blossoming that it hit me: God has given me a particular largeness of heart that sets me apart, a burning desire to love not just with great depth but with great breadth, a longing to welcome more and more and more people into my life and heart and home.
For most of my life, my dearest dream was to be a wife and mother. For years I had a pad of paper in my bedroom with the names of my five future children. I imagined sharing my life with a man, creating a home, bringing forth new life into the world, possibly with my eyes or long legs or stubbornness. It’s not exactly that that dream of mine went away, but a new one has grown and grown to eclipse the old.
There’s a beauty in marriage and family life that religious life doesn’t share. A wife is called to love her spouse with the utmost exclusivity. A mother pours out and lays down her life for her children without reserve. She should not, nor could she possibly, love another man or other children with that same intimacy and intensity and devotion. The love that exists within a family is a striking sign of Trinitarian love. It is holy, heroic, and good.
Yet I am in a season now where I am considering a different way of loving. It’s a radical belonging to Jesus, a being claimed by Him, a saying with my whole heart and mind and life, I’m Yours. Yet with that deep belonging comes another handing over of myself. To belong to Jesus is also to say to the whole world, “I’m Yours.” It is to say yes and yes and yes to each child of God that He sends my way, no matter their age or past or sin or connection to me. Rich and poor, young and old, holy and wicked alike. A woman who gives her life entirely to Jesus as His bride necessarily becomes a mother to all. She has an invitation to receive without reserve. To welcome, to shelter, to shepherd, to love. And that endless motherly love flows forth from the love that she has first received, from her undivided heart for Jesus, from the wellspring of salvation.
I’ve been practicing this twofold belonging to Jesus and to the world lately as I look ahead to beginning a new journey in the convent. And it has come to me in spades. While I’ve long welcomed people into my life with joy, there’s a new sense, I think, that people see me as theirs. It’s strange to say, and I haven’t the sufficient words for it yet, but I will at least try. Most notable has been the way in which people, some whom I barely know, have been entrusting me with fragile parts of their lives and hearts, naturally seeing me as a trusted confidante and, more importantly, a faithful intercessor. Others have been quick to launch into a series of questions (or frank opinions) about religious life, down to the good Samaritan who changed my flat tire on the side of the highway. Still more have rejoiced with me, boasted about me, kindly taken earthly possessions off my hands with promises to think of and pray for me when they wear or read or look at them. And a precious few, those nearest and dearest to my swelling heart, have brought me to tears with their words of encouragement and affirmation and love. To all of them I’ve said, in the secret of my heart, I’m yours. I’ve said yes to the encounters and the heartbreak and the weighty responsibility of receiving another wholeheartedly. To the interruptions and sheepish wonderings and offerings of burdens that must be shared. To a wholly new dimension of giving love, yes, but first of being loved.
By the grace of God, all it takes is a simple yes. A welcoming of the unstoppable union of divine power and an open heart. It’s like riding a wave, guided by an unseen hand, with the blessed assurance that wherever I arrive, through twists and turns and never-ending surprises, is just where I ought to be. Because I belong to Him, and I belong to you.