I have been reading “Tattoos on the Heart” by Gregory Boyle. Boyle is a Jesuit priest who has worked in Los Angeles for decades in the most gang-infested part of LA. The book is really wonderful, and Boyle offers what turns out to be a Lutheran voice, though he is a Catholic, and I love it when that happens.
The book gets its title from a young man G [as the author is called by the homies] was talking to. He works among those whose lives start out harder than any life should ever be. One young man’s mother was on drugs and was beating him with her high heeled shoe, so he hid in the closet. He was listening to her beat his younger brother when it got silent. He opened the door to find her strangling him with a wire hanger. He charged out to save his brother.
These sort of heart-breaking stories are a dime a dozen in G’s neighborhood. And he finds that what his homies most need to hear is how unconditionally they are loved by God. One day one of the most hardened of the homies was told by G how precious he was. How God just cherished him and loved looking at him and seeing how hard he was working on his life. The man said to G, “That felt so good, I wish I could tattoo it on my heart.”
What would you like to have tattooed on your heart?
My heart, as I know many of your hearts are, is heavy these days. Every day it seems there is another story, another example of the evil that is in the world—of people seeking to harm each other. I long for an end to it, for peace and harmony in this world.
We are together living in Advent, both literally and figuratively. It is the season of Advent in the church, and these are Advent times. These are times when we long for Jesus to come again and fix us and the world. And we also long for sitting in worship, with candles raised, singing silent night holy night to a noisy and messed up world.
I think we do these things because we have tattoos on our hearts. Tattoos which are full of assurances and promises. Promises that we are loved and treasured, and that the world is loved and treasured too. God has not abandoned us. God is working [often through us] to fix the world. From the gang-wrecked center of LA to Mali to Paris to San Bernadino to Silverdale. I am clinging to that promise that God is there, ink in hand, tattooing hearts to help his world. And I hope you, Advent people, are too.