An earlier form of this article appeared in 2007.
Our first child was born over 27 years ago. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by the event – staggered at the seriousness of what had happened in my life. Evey aspect of her coming into our life was new – and I felt completely unprepared. On her first night home from the hospital, I slept on the floor next to the crib fearing that I would not hear her if she woke (I got over that real fast).
Two years later our second child was born. Again, it was overwhelming, but in a new way. Like many young parents I wondered secretly, “Will we be able to love two children like we have loved one? It was a silly question.
By the time our third was born I was beginning to understand. There is something about the human heart that allows it to expand. Love is not something you run out of. The more you love the more you love. Today I have four children, three of whom are married, one of whom has presented me with my first grandchild. Love is not diminished.
Fr. Sophrony Sakharov, in his writings about St. Silouan of Mt. Athos and the spiritual life, notes that “man as persona becomes infinite, despite his ‘creaturehood’.” (In I Love Therefore I Am, page 80)
Fr. Sophrony understands that, created in the image of God, the human person has a capacity for infinity, an ability to love, to be in relationship that is without limit. In such a sense, it truly becomes possible to pray for the whole world.
None of this is possible, of course, except for the healing grace of God at work in us, completing us and bringing us to the fullness of life for which we were created.
It seems to me important somehow that my vision for what is possible be stretched by such an understanding, just as my reality was stretched with the adding of children. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Can we love our enemies? Of course we can or God would not have commanded it. As difficult as it may seem, it holds the key to the great mystery for the infinite capacity God has placed within us. It is this infinite capacity for love that truly makes us persons in the image of God. Thus we should never treat the commandment to love as a mere ethical suggestion: it is a commandment that goes to the heart of the nature of our existence. To not love our enemies is to have diminished ourselves as human beings. It is as though we brought a child into the world and declared that we cannot love more than we already have. Love of all things, all mankind and every person, is part of the true fullness. Why settle for less?