Jesuit priest Greg Boyle founded Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry program. He shares stories of the men and women he works with who demonstrate that each of us is sacred, no matter what we’ve been through:
Joel, a man who did considerable time in prison, told me, “When my toes hit the floor in the morning, I’m on the lookout.”
“On the lookout for what?” I asked him.
“For God,” he said. “God is always leaving me hints. He’s dropping me anonymous tips all the time.” This is the God of love trying to break through. This God will not be outdone in extravagant tenderness. Leaving hints as “deep as the nether world or high as the sky,” as the prophet Isaiah reminds us [7:11]. We get to choose: the god who judges and is embarrassed [by us], or the One who notices and delights in us.
Greg Boyle or “G,” as he is affectionately known, tells the story of Anthony, a trainee at Homeboy Industries who has three daughters:
Half of Anthony’s life had been spent in jails and detention facilities. Before coming to us, a meth addiction crippled him surely as much as his earlier gang allegiance did. We’re speaking in my office one day and he tells me that he and his twin brother, at nine years old, were taken from their parents and a house filled with violence and abuse and sent to live with their grandmother. “She was the meanest human being I’ve ever known,” Anthony says. Every day after school, every weekend, and all summer long, for the entire year Anthony and his twin lived with her (until they ran away), they were forced to strip down … sit in this lonely hallway … and not move. “She would put duct tape over our mouths … cuz … she said, ‘I hate the sound of your voices.’” Then Anthony quakes as the emotion of this memory reverberates. “This is why,” he says, holding a finger to his mouth, “I never shush my girls.” He pauses and restores what he needs to continue. “I love the sound … of their voices. In fact, when the oldest one grabs a crayon and draws wildly on the living room wall and my wife says, ‘DO something! Aren’t ya gonna TELL her something?’ I crouch down, put my arm around my daughter, and the two of us stare at the wall, my cheek resting on hers, and I point and say, ‘Now, that’s the most magnificent work of art … I have ever seen.’”
Here is the Good News: The God we most deeply want IS the God we actually have, and the god we fear is, in fact, the partial god we’ve settled for. God looks at us and is ecstatic. This God loves the sound of our voices and thinks that all of us are a magnificent work of art. “You’re here.” God’s cheek resting on ours. God’s singular agenda item.
Gregory Boyle, The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness (New York: Avid Reader Press, 2021), 8-9.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next— Izzy Spitz, Untitled. CAC Staff, Untitled. Izzy Spitz, Untitled. Watercolor. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Our divinely-given identities and experiences color our horizons like a sunrise.
Story from Our Community:
Five years ago, my wife (my life’s center) died. Shortly after her death, my daughter suggested the CAC Daily Meditations to help me cope with what she could see was intense loneliness. The Daily Meditations have helped me tap into the Love all around me and acknowledge the Love that was given freely to me throughout my life. I don’t know the nature of God. I don’t believe anyone does. But what I know now is that God exists just as surely as Love and compassion exist. I remain lonely for my wife, but I have developed an appreciation for what I have had with her. I’m grateful for the unknown bliss I will experience when I am joined as one with her, God, and all creation. —Mick H.