"...our common call to delight in one another."I just finished reading Father Greg Boyle's recent book, Tattoos on the Heart, in three summer evenings. Some of my colleagues read it too and we've all had similar reactions to it - we love it and it makes us cry.
It is nothing short of a love letter to humanity. It's about...
...the power of unconditional love (the "no-matter-whatness" of love) and self-worth
...compassion instead of judgment
...the truth that we belong to each other and
...how our loving relationships bring us back to ourselves and the truth of ourselves - we all matter, just as we are.
Reading it is like going to church - or at least, what going to church could be - inspiring, connecting, validating, loving, motivating, accepting, inclusive, living grace.
Boy, have I got a long way to go - and yet - I am exactly where I am supposed to be. It reminds me of a sermon I heard a long time ago that freed me - I can't do anything to make God love me any less (or more).
The parts that made me cry were not what you might expect. The parts that made me cry were when homies finally experienced feeling felt - when they saw themselves with the proud love and attentive gaze of a parent looking at their newborn for the first time - noticing a perfect and wonderful and fragile human being.
It is about homies coming home. It is also about us - homie, ex-homie or not - coming home to ourselves. In the end, we are all on the same journey to love, to belonging, to God.
In the last 20 years, G-Dog has come a long way, baby, and shares some lessons learned about working with gangs. He is honest and reflective about this, which his critics may appreciate (or not).
Father Greg Boyle is one of my heroes, but I disagree with him on one point - that is the role of evidence-based outcomes. He talks about this toward the end of the book. He represents it as almost a sin-like endeavor - he calls us to be faithful to the process and not fret over outcomes. I imagine that he feels the pressure of funders breathing down his back and demanding accountability. It's easy to conclude something is impossible or horrible if we can't imagine how to do it. Unfortunately, Father Greg hasn't met the right evidence-based practice consultant or evaluation researcher (allow me to introduce myself, Father Greg...). There is no this or that, process or outcome, either-or dilemma here. Both science and faith can live side by side - informing each other - bringing out the best in each other - integrated even.
So much to love here, but I will leave you with this...
"But in this place of which you say it is a waste, there will be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness...the voices of those who sing."
"And so the voices at the margins get heard and the circle of compassion widens. Souls feeling their worth, refusing to forget that we belong to each other. No bullet can pierce this. The vision still has its time, and, yes, it presses on to fulfillment. It will not disappoint. And yet, if it delays, we can surely wait for it."
Amen. Thank You, Yesus.