Posted by: Kara Luker | May 18, 2012

A son worth having

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

A passage follows from a book called Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest with a big ol’ heart for the gangbangers of LA:

At three o’clock in the morning, the phone rings. It’s Cesar. He says what every homie says when they call in the middle of the night, “Did I wake you?”

I always think, “Why no, I was just waiting and hoping that you’d call.”

Cesar is sober, and it’s urgent that he talk to me.

I gotta ask you a question. You know how I’ve always seen you as my father – ever since I was a little kid? Well, I hafta ask you a question.

Now Cesar pauses, and the gravity of it all makes his voice waver and crumble, “Have I… been… your son?”

Oh, hell yeah,” I say.

Whew,” Cesar exhales, “I thought so.”

Now his voice becomes enmeshed in a cadence of gentle sobbing. “Then… I will be… your son. And you… will be my father. And nothing will separate us, right?”

That’s right.”

In this early morning call, Cesar did not discover that he had a father. He discovered that he is a son worth having. The voice broke through the clouds of his terror and the crippling mess of his own history, and he felt himself beloved. God, wonderfully pleased in him, is where God wanted Cesar to reside.

I wept when I read this, both for Cesar and myself. You see, while I’m quick to identify God as my father, I relate to the hope – and the doubt – that he sees me as his very loved child. I often feel more like a student trying to please an admired teacher by shining in the knowledge he’s imparted. When it seems I’ve done well, I radiate with joy and lock twinkling eyes with him like we share some special bond. When it seems I’ve failed, my soul plummets and I try to hide, too ashamed to be in his presence or receive his attention.

But sonship came for Cesar, not because of his performance as a great kid or worthy student, but simply because the father loved him. That love was extended independently of Cesar’s life or choices. It continued, not because the kid – now a recipient of love – was able to measure up to the imagined demands of love, but because the father’s heart toward him was unchangeable. Cesar’s only role in this whole thing was accepting sonship. It was at this point that the relationship found true intimacy.

As I was sitting in church on Sunday, in a non-shining moment, I saw the face of the Lord draw close to me. My eyes, which had been avoiding his, couldn’t help but return the gaze. There was not a trace of disappointment in his expression. All I saw was love and kindness. It was like he was crushing every doubt about my place as his daughter with the gentlest, “oh, hell yeah” you’ve ever heard. All I wanted to do was put my hands on his cheeks, like a little girl does to her daddy, and be as close to him as he was to me. “And nothing will separate us, right?” “That’s right.”


  1. […] have blogged about this passage before, but can’t help but include it again here because it is exactly what I experienced that […]

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