Every now and then I notice that common search terms have led people to the blog. One that seems to show up fairly often is “Father Greg Boyle Quotes” (or some variation thereof.) So I decided to include something more from him today.
For those who are not familiar with Father Greg, he is the founder of Homeboy Industries, one of the most effective gang intervention programs in the country. Homeboy interrupts the cycles that perpetuate gang involvement by creating jobs, complete with the requisite training, as well as providing a host of services.
Father Greg’s Tattoos on the Heart speaks about compassion, kinship and grace in a way that fills your gut with a deep sense that this is, truly, what God is like.
One of my favorite stories is about Willy’s prayer.
“G,” Willy says, “my stomach’s on echale [empty.] Kick me down with twenty bones, yeah?”
“Dog, my wallet’s on echale,” I tell him. A ‘dog’ is the one upon whom you can rely–the role-dog, the person who has your back. “But get in. Let’s see if I can trick any funds outta the ATM.”
At the ATM, Willy asks for the keys to keep the radio on, but Father Greg refuses, chiding him to pray as he sits there.
Willy sighs and levitates his eyeballs. But he’s putty. He assumes the praying hands pose and looks heavenward…I return to the car, twenty dollars in hand, and get in.
Something has happened here. Willy is quiet, reflective, and there is a palpable sense of peace in the vehicle. I look at Willy and say, “You prayed, didn’t you?”
He doesn’t look at me. He’s still and quiet. “Yeah, I did.”
I start the car.
“Well, what did God say to you?” I ask him.
“Well, first He said, ‘Shut up and listen.'”
“So what d’ya do?”
“Come on, G,” he says, “What am I sposed ta do? I shut up and listened.”
I begin to drive him home to the barrio. I’ve never seen WIlly like this. He’s quiet and humble–no need to convince me of anything or talk me out of something else.
“So, son, tell me something,” I ask. “How do you see God?”
“God?” he says, “That’s my dog right there.”
“And God?” I ask, “How does God see you?”
Willy doesn’t answer at first. So I turn and watch as he rests his head on the recliner, staring at the ceiling of my car. A tear falls down his cheek. Heart full, eyes overflowing. “God… thinks… I’m… firme.”
To the homies, firme means, “could not be one bit better.”
Not only does God think we’re firme, it is God’s joy to have us marinate in that.
I have stated before that I don’t cook, but I still know the power of marinating. Marinades infuse food with layers of flavor over time. The longer your chicken, veggies, or steak stays in there, the better it gets. And if you make a good one, you can’t really overdo it.
When something marinates, that which surrounds it permeates it to its center, and it is changed, infused by whatever it soaks in. It can’t strive for that change, or earn it. It just absorbs, a passive recipient.
In seminary, I took a class on pastoral care and abuse, and the professor was insistent that we be able to identify and work to heal the pain caused by false gods, meaning our ideas about who God is that cannot possible be the real thing.
These gods are demanding, harsh, and aloof. They require striving and proving yourself and you are never worthy. They are hard to spot; they excel in the art of trickery, making us believe that God really is that way.
God thinks we’re firme.
Or, if you prefer,
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8
What would happen if we really let that marinate?