Today we’re discussing three chapters in Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle.
Chapter 5 — Slow Work
Chapter 6 — Jurisdiction
Chapter 7 — Gladness
As I read these three chapters I thought, “These three themes are the heart of the work we do. If we could just remember, slow work, jurisdiction, and gladness, what a difference it would make in our ministries.”
I loved the story of the gang member who was in Camp Munz and didn’t want to get his tattoos removed and then, at a ball game, leaned over to Father G and whispered, “I get out Tuesday … I’ll call ya Wednesday … I wanted ta … take my tattoos off.”
Father G continues: “Teilhard de Chardin wrote that we must ‘trust in the slow work of God.’ Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”
The slow work of God. We’ve talked about this before: the urgency of the worlds problems, the sometimes unrealistic expectations of supporters (who are we kidding, the sometimes unrealistic expectations of ourselves!), the desire we wrestle with to see change NOW.
To go another way can take 180 degree change, one degree at a time. I admit there are times I want to say, “Let’s do this! You start changing and I’ll stand behind you and shove on that change too and together we’ll shove this puppy out.”
“Sooner or later, we all discover that kindness is the only strength there is.” Not shoving from behind or pulling others to catch up to where you desire them to be. Kindness and trusting in the slow work of God.
“Thank you, Junior. That was a very nice thing to say.”
Junior waved me on, as if papally blessing me as my day begins.
“Oh, come on now, G, you know,” he says, spinning his hand in a circular motion, “You’re in my . . . jurisdiction.”
I can’t be entirely sure what Junior meant. Except for the fact that we all need to see that we are in each other’s ‘jurisdictions,’ spheres of acceptance–only all the time. And yet, there are lines that get drawn, and barriers erected, meant only exclude. Allowing folks into my jurisdiction requires that I dismantle what I have set up to keep them out.
Doesn’t the enemy of your soul want you to believe, “It’s safer to keep the walls up and keep out the threats.” Which sounds smart in part. We do need to keep threats out, but in his trickery The Enemy has confused us what’s a threat and what’s not. Because he’s good at lying, we believe him and become isolated in our jurisdiction. We weren’t meant to go it alone, we were meant for connection. One of the reasons connection is a heartbeat of Velvet Ashes is because it’s a heart beat of God.
We try to find a way, then, to hold our fingertips gently to the pulse of God. We watch as our hearts begin to beat as one with the One who delights in our being. Then what do we do? We exhale that same spirit of delight into the world and hope for poetry. (147)
We want to cover our bets, though. a battle gets waged between disparate takes on God’s hidden agency. What seem to vex us is our tendency to conjure up a tiny God. (151)
He was pretty much beat up, and I presumed an encounter with rivals. “My God,” I say to him, “What happened to you?”
Lorenzo, nonchalant and unbothered, points at his numerous red markings and scabs and dismisses it all with glee. “Oh this? My bike was teaching me how to fly.” Music with nothing playing. (163)
This book has challenged me to see how VAST God is and reminded me of his delight in me. His delight in you. His delight in us. As Father G said, the more I sense and taste his delight, delight flows more easily out of me. Life is still hard and messy and at times heart breaking. Delight does not negate these truths. Instead, it grows us and helps us to hold hard in one hand and delight in the other.
Slow Work. Jurisdiction. Gladness.
What stood out to you?
See you in the comments, Amy
P.S. Reading plan: We’ll finish the book next week. I can’t wait to reread chapter 8, as was foundational in forming part of my ministry philosophy. Our next book is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.
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