I am reading the book Tattoos on the Heart for the second time now. I cry through almost every chapter. It’s about a priest named Father Gregory Boyle, otherwise known as Papa G, who has a ministry called Homeboy Industries. Papa G employs rival gang members side by side in bakeries, t-shirt companies, and coffee shops. He has also removed tattoos from hundreds of gang members.
In the book, scene after scene depicts Papa G showing fatherly kindness towards hardened, drug dealing, sometimes murdering young people. And in almost every scene, they end up crying like a little child when he shows them unconditional acceptance. They are starving for love.
Consider this scene: a teenage boy named Looney just got out of juvenile detention center. The whole staff throws a party for him, ordering lots of pizzas. They “kill the fattened pepperoni and welcome home the prodigal Looney.” He is amazed that they would throw a party for him. He asks Papa G if he can see him alone. Looney pulls out his report card. You can tell he dreamed of this moment from inside his cell walls. “Straight A’s,” Looney says. Papa G looks at the report card. 2 Cs, 2 Bs, 1A. This white lie might have gotten his a beating at home from his angry father. But Papa G overlooks it. He says
“On everything I love, mijo, if you were my son, I’d be the the proudest man alive.”
Looney cries and cries.
I cry and cry.
Papa G says this: “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgement at how they carry it.”
I love that.
Most people see how sinful Looney is. Papa G sees how strong Looney is.
Looney cries out for a father that he never had. When he is offered love, a little bit of light seeps into his sad, lonely soul.
I cry out for a father who tried hard with what little he had who died this year. My dad struggled his whole life with depression. He was often crippled by it. He often wrestled to understand how to love us, and yet he tried so hard. I have to remember that.
I wrote a song about my dad a few years ago, a song that I never played for him. It was about how he grew up as the son of a coal miner, one of the youngest of seven children. It was about how hard he tried despite his often difficult upbringing, despite his struggle with depression. This is the chorus:
You whisper to me the secret of forgiveness
When I set him free, I walk out of my prison
When I set him free, I am the one forgiven.
This father’s day, I want to stand in awe at what he had to carry rather than judgement on how he carried it.
Most of my life, I have thought of God as a friend or even a husband. I have barely every thought of him as a father. Because of this, I often struggle with the idea that God takes care of me. I strive to take care of myself without him. I have a very hard time trusting that he is good.
I want to remember that my God is a good papa. So good. He takes me into his lap and says, “I swear on everything I love, Katie girl, you are my daughter, and I am the proudest papa alive.”
If this father’s day was hard for you, take a moment to forgive. Take a moment to look into the eyes of your true papa. A papa who loves you so deep that he gave everything for you.
Tell us about your healing/ forgiveness with your own fathers. Tell us about how you have learned to see God as your own papa.
On a side note, I have 14 hours left to raise another $400 to make my goal on my indiegogo campaign for my new CD Sing Over Me, all songs from God’s perspective. Would you consider pre ordering the CD to help me reach my goal? It would mean so much to me! You can get other incentives like my book…