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One Heart Less than God

Sean Dreilinger

Cari Donaldson - published on 06/02/14

Video game theology out of the mouths of babes.

One very early morning, three of the boys had crawled into bed with us for snuggles.  In the pearl grey light of pre-dawn, they spoke with each other (after realizing that it was too early to get anything other than grunts from their parents), using uncharacteristically hushed, soft tones.

As I drifted in and out of sleep, I heard snatches of their conversation; legos, Minecraft, debates over whether a werewolf would be more or less scary than a skeleton ninja. Then the talk turned to me, specifically, about who loved me the most. The oldest boy insisted he loved me most because he’d loved me longest. The other two rejected this immediately.  

“I love Mommy more than ice cream!” declared the middle boy.
“I love her more than riding my bike!” countered the oldest boy.
“I love Mommy more than God!” said the littlest one.

There was a sharp intake of breath from the older two. Then, a shocked moment of silence. Finally, the oldest boy said to his little brother, “You can’t. You can’t love anything more than God.”

The little one wasn’t having any of it. I could feel him cross his arms stubbornly. “I do. I love Mommy more than God.”

The middle boy tried next. “But you can’t. Because we have to love God the most. Because God made Mommy! We’re not supposed to love anything more than God.”

There was unhappy silence for a few seconds as the three boys tried to find a solution to their theological quandary. Intellectually, they all knew they owed their highest devotion to their Creator, but emotionally, they were little boys, specifically designed by that Creator, to love their mommy with a fierce, consuming love.

Finally, the oldest boy hit upon a solution.  

“You can love her one heart less than God!” he said, and I immediately saw the brilliance in his plan. My boys love computer games, and often times the health bar of your character is represented in hearts. All hearts full, perfect health. All hearts empty, game over. So, in his workaround, if the boys loved me one heart less than they loved God, they’d be fulfilling their duty to their Maker, while adequately expressing their love for their mother.

The suggestion was met with enthusiastic approval, as my youngest son wrapped me in a tiny bear hug and declared, “I LOVE YOU ONE HEART LESS THAN GOD!” The early morning silence was broken, but by such a sweet sound that I didn’t care.

I rolled over and hugged all three boys close to me. “I love you all one heart less than God, too,” I said. And there is the brilliance of God, I realized, that the more love you give to Hiim, the more love you find yourself having.

Cari Donaldson is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories: How I Found God, Had Kids, and Lived to Tell the Tale. She married her high school sweetheart, had six children with him, and now spends her days homeschooling, writing, and figuring out how to stay one step ahead of her child army. She blogs about faith and family life at

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