“It was like I got hit by a love truck,” she replied. I had asked about the moment when the doctors first placed her newborn son into her arms.
She sighed, though. She hadn’t seen her son for decades, not since he was taken away. I didn’t dare ask why, how, or who.
We were standing on the porch of a soup kitchen. I could guess the possibilities: drugs, alcohol, homelessness. I couldn’t blame the authority that had intervened on behalf of the child. But my heart broke with hers. She got hit by a love truck and never recovered.
My friend’s story was not unique. At the soup kitchen, many guests shared a similar anguish of their children’s absence. One mother showed me pictures of her son’s high school graduation. She didn’t attend. She wasn’t invited. All she got was a text message—and yet she still beamed with motherly pride.
Another showed me her children’s names tattooed on her arm. She confessed that of all her pains, missing her children was the worst. This was the pain that nothing could erase: no amount of money, no high from heroin, nothing. Her children’s absence carved a chasm in her heart.
I had come to the soup kitchen to serve Jesus, to feed Him in the least of His brethren. And in these mothers, He was revealing Himself to me. In their broken hearts, He showed me His Sacred Heart, pierced by our sins and for our salvation. Their pain confused me, but Jesus knew it through and through. He knew the pain of their children’s absence and the pain of all their guilt. He had already made their pain His own.
And in these mothers, Jesus was revealing the Father. They had lost their children because of some shortcoming, but it is our sins that separate us from the Father. These mothers grieved for their children, and even more so, the Father longs for His children: for you and me. He calls to us:
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name. (Is 49:15-16a)
These mothers were bonded to their children as if by super-glue, even amid such anguish. And yet God tells us that He is bonded to us even more intensely. No matter what is in our past, present, or future, God will not forget His love for us. Even our crafty schemes to allude Him cannot foil His mercy.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)
My Father, how many times have I turned away from You! How easily I forget Your tender goodness and instead cling to ugliness. Yet in these moments, when I feel utterly unlovable, You search for me as Your lost sheep. You reveal Your unfailing love, Your intimate mercy, Your abiding peace. Though unworthy to be called Your servant, You name me Your child—and so I am. Have mercy, my Father. Hold me and never let go.
Image: Giovanni Bellini, Presentation at the Temple