Of all the tattoo designs available today, the heart tattoo is one of the most widely used. You might want to use it as a universal symbol of love, to express reverence for someone you’ve lost, or to communicate hundreds of other ideas.
Since the heart can be easily integrated into many other designs, it’s easy to find one that resonates with you.
This is a fairly popular design, particularly among those who have experienced a bad relationship.
Ia€™m certain we all have an image of God that becomes the touchstone, the controlling principle, to which we return when we stray.
If you don’t find the perfect tattoo, though, you can always ask your tattoo artist to help you create a custom design. Experimenting with color and texture is also a great way to create a custom heart tattoo design – your tattoo artist can make a heart look like it is made out of steel, rusted metal, glass, or just about anything else you could think of. My touchstone image of God comes by way of my friend and spiritual director, Bill Cain, S.J. Years ago he took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer.
Though he was physically not what he had been, and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively.
In the role reversal common to adult children who care for their dying parents, Bill would put his father to bed and then read him to sleep, exactly as his father had done for him in childhood.
Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling. Bill was exhausted from the daya€™s care and work and would plead with his dad, a€?Look, herea€™s the idea. I read to you, you fall asleep.a€? Billa€™s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes. Bill would catch him and whine, a€?Now, come on.a€? The father would, again, oblige, until he couldna€™t anymore, and the other eye would open to catch a glimpse of his son. This went on and on, and after his fathera€™s death, Bill knew that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldna€™t take his eyes off his kid.
Anthony De Mello writes, a€?Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.a€? God would seem to be too occupied in being unable to take Her eyes off of us to spend any time raising an eyebrow in disapproval. Whata€™s true of Jesus is true for us, and so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us.
One of its producers had read a Sunday Los Angeles Times Magazine article about my work with gang members in the housing projects. For all his initial insensitivity, toward the end of the visit, in a moment unrecorded, Wallace did say to me, a€?Can I admit something? But thata€™s not what I found.a€? Later, in a recorded moment, we are sitting in a classroom filled with gang members, all students in our Dolores Mission Alternative School. Wallace points at me and says, a€?You wona€™t turn these guys in to the police.a€? Which seems quite silly to me at the time.
Certainly, a place like Homeboy Industries is all folly and bad business unless the core of the endeavor seeks to imitate the kind of God one ought to believe in.
In the end, I am helpless to explain why anyone would accompany those on the margins were it not for some anchored belief that the Ground of all Being thought this was a good idea.
His truck gets filled with scrap metal and with this, somehow, he feeds his kids and manages to stay on this side of eviction. Rascal sometimes hits me up for funds, and I oblige if I have it and if his attitude doesna€™t foul my mood too much. When Ia€™m done, he says simply, a€?You know, Ia€™m gonna take that advice, and Ia€™m gonna let it marinate,a€? pointing at his heart, a€?right here.a€? Perhaps we should all marinate in the intimacy of God.
Jesus chose to marinate in the God who is always greater than our tiny conception, the God who a€?loves without measure and without regret.a€? To anchor yourself in this, to keep always before your eyes this God is to choose to be intoxicated, marinated in the fullness of God.
A a€?doga€? is the one upon whom you can relya€”the role-dog, the person who has your back. He is a life force of braggadocio and posturinga€”a thoroughly good soula€”but his confidence is outsize, that of a lion wanting you to know he just swallowed a man whole. A gang member, but a peripheral one at besta€”he wants more to regale you with his exploits than to actually be in the midst of any. In his midtwenties, Willy is a charmer, a quintessential homie con man whoa€™s apt to coax money out of your ATM if you let him. I hold both my hands together and enunciate exaggeratedly, a€?Pray.a€? Willy sighs and levitates his eyeballs.
I proceed on my quest to the ATM but feel the need to check in on Willy only ten yards later. I turn and find him still in the prayer position, seeming to be only half-aware that Ia€™m looking in on him. Hea€™s quiet and humblea€”no need to convince me of anything or talk me out of something else.
So I turn and watch as he rests his head on the recliner, staring at the ceiling of my car.
I came late to this understanding in my own lifea€”helped along by the grace-filled pedagogy of the people of Dolores Mission. You concede a€?God loves us,a€? and yet there is this lurking sense that perhaps you arena€™t fully part of the a€?us.a€? The arms of God reach to embrace, and somehow you feel yourself just outside Goda€™s fingertips.
Then you have no choice but to consider that a€?God loves me,a€? yet you spend much of your life unable to shake off what feels like God only embracing you begrudgingly and reluctantly. Then who can explain this next moment, when the utter fullness of God rushes in on youa€”when you completely know the One in whom a€?you move and live and have your being,a€? as St.
Every time one of the Jesuits at Dolores Mission would celebrate a birthday, the same ritual would repeat itself.
The people are throwing a a€?surprise partya€™ for you on the Saturday before.a€? The protests are as predictable as the festivities.
The poet Rumi writes, a€?Find the real world, give it endlessly away, grow rich flinging gold to all who ask.
Ia€™ll dance there with youa€”cheek to cheek.a€? Dancing cumbias with the women of Dolores Mission rhymes with Goda€™s own wild desire to dance with each one of us cheek to cheek.
Meister Eckhart says a€?God is greater than God.a€? The hope is that our sense of God will grow as expansive as our God is. Each tiny conception gets obliterated as we discover more and more the God who is always greater.
We still had some fifteen minutes before the other incarcerated youth would join us for Mass in the gym, and Ia€™m asking Rigo the basic stuff about his family and his life. Barely ever lived with us.a€? Then something kind of snaps in hima€”an image brings him to attention. You know how many buses she takes every Sundaya€”to see my sorry ass?a€? Then quite unexpectedly he sobs with the same ferocity as before.
Imagine.a€? How, then, to imagine, the expansive heart of this Goda€”greater than Goda€”who takes seven buses, just to arrive at us.
We settle sometimes for less than intimacy with God when all God longs for is this solidarity with us.
In Spanish, when you speak of your great friend, you describe the union and kinship as being de uA±a y mugrea€”our friendship is like the fingernail and the dirt under it.
It trips more on our puny sense of God than over conflicting creedal statements or theological considerations. This longing of Goda€™s to give us peace and assurance and a sense of well-being only awaits our willingness to cooperate with Goda€™s limitless magnanimity. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of Goda€™s DNA. I can remember first meeting him when he was a little kid in Pico Gardens during the earthquake of 1987 when the projects had become a tent city. Is this the end of the world?a€? I spent every evening of those two weeks walking the tents, and I always associate Cesar with that period. He had joined the local gang, since there wasna€™t anyone around to a€?chase his assa€? and rein him in. Right now, Ia€™m staying with a friend in his apartmenta€”here in El Montea€”away from the projects and the hood and the homies.
My lady she left me, and she burned all my clothes, you know, in some anger toward me, I guess.a€? Ia€™m waiting for him to cut to the cheese.
Ia€™ll pick you up after work, at six oa€™clock.a€? I drive to the apartment at the appointed hour, and Ia€™m surprised to see Cesar standing on the sidewalk waiting for mea€”Ia€™m used to searching for homies when asked to retrieve them.
Ita€™s not just the fact that hea€™s large and especially, fresh out of prison, newly a€?swolea€? from lifting weights.
When he sees ita€™s me, this huge ex-con does this bouncing up and down, yippy-skippy, happy-to-see-ya, hand-clapping gleeful jig. In no time, his arms are filled with the essentials, and we both are standing in a considerable line to pay for it all.
People cana€™t help but turn and look, though they all take great pains to pretend theya€™re not listening. La neta, Ia€™m scared.a€? a€?Look, son,a€? I say to him, a€?Whoa€™s got a better heart than you? So, what can go wrong?a€? We say our good-byes, and as I watch him walk away alone, I find his gentleness and disarming sweet soul a kind of elixir, soothing my own doubts and calling me to fearlessness.
He says what every homie says when they call in the middle of the night, a€?Did I wake you?a€? I always think Why no, I was just waiting and hoping that youa€™d call.
And nothing will separate us, right?a€? a€?Thata€™s right.a€? In this early morning call Cesar did not discover that he has a father. The voice broke through the clouds of his terror and the crippling mess of his own history, and he felt himself beloved. Jesus, in Matthewa€™s gospel, says, a€?How narrow is the gate that leads to life.a€? Mistakenly, I think, wea€™ve come to believe that this is about restriction. Hedwig writes, a€?All is narrow for me, I feel so vast.a€? Ita€™s about funneling ourselves into a central place. From the perch of my own glass-enclosed office, I can see Scrappy talking to Marcos, the receptionist, who is also from Scrappya€™s gang. I havena€™t seen Scrappy in ten years, since hea€™s been incarcerated all that time, but even before that, Ia€™m not sure if hea€™s ever set foot in my office.
He was fifteen years old, and his probation officer assigned him to the church to complete his hours of community service. The eternal scowl I had come to know in that summer of 1984 is fixed on me as he walks straight ahead. We stand face-to-face, he mad-dogs me with some intensity, then turns and exits the church by the side door.
Three years later, Ia€™m riding my bike, as I would in those days, a€?patrollinga€? the projects at night. The homies have formed a circle and clearly two of their rank are a€?goina€™ head up.a€? I break through the mob and, indeed, find Scrappy throwing down with one of his own homies.
I stop the fight, and Scrappy reaches into the front waist of his pants and pulls out a gun that he waves around wildly.
We carry on until this runs its course, and then Scrappy settles into the core of his being, beyond the bravado of his chingA?n status in his gang. When the wailing stops and he comes up for air, he daubs his eyes and runs his sleeve across his nose.
And I dona€™t know how to wash my clothes except in the sink of a cell.a€? I hire him that day, and he begins work the next morning on our graffiti crew.
Scrappy discovered, as Scripture has it, a€?that where he is standing is holy ground.a€? He found the narrow gate that leads to life. Goda€™s voice was not of restriction, to a€?shape up or ship out.a€? Scrappy found himself in the center of vastness and right in the expansive heart of God.
The sacred place toward which God had nudged Scrappy all his life is not to be arrived at, but discovered. The minute we think wea€™ve arrived at the most expansive sense of who God is, a€?this Great, Wild God,a€? as the poet Hafez writes, breaks through the claustrophobia of our own articulation, and things get large again.
Goda€™s unwieldy love, which cannot be contained by our words, wants to accept all that we are and sees our humanity as the privileged place to encounter this magnanimous love.
Scrappya€™s moment of truth was not in recognizing what a disappointment hea€™s been all these years. It came in realizing that God had been beholding him and smiling for all this time, unable to look anywhere else. It is certainly true that you cana€™t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a book by its first chaptera€”even if that chapter is twenty years long. I could celebrate the Eucharist in Spanish (after a summer at Dolores Mission), but I was a slave to the missal for some time to come.
Early on, I began to minister to a community named Temporal, which had been without a priest for a long time. A few weeks into my time there, I was approached by a group of health workers who asked me to celebrate Mass in Tirani.
This was a Quechua community located high above Cochabamba, whose indigenous folks harvested flowers for market.
It was common to see campesinos making the long trek from Tirani with a huge weight of flowers tied to their backs.
The health workers explain that the Quechua Indians in Tirani have not seen a priest in a decade, so they ask me to celebrate the Mass in Spanish, and one of the workers would preach in Quechua.
I hop into the back of the open-air truck with the others, and we climb to the top of the mountain. I do have a Spanish Bible, so I frantically flip through the pages, trying to find any passages that sound like the words of consecration. Soon, my body is introducing me to the marvels of flop sweata€”and I havena€™t even arrived at Tirani yet. We pull into a huge, open-air landing, a field cleared of all crops, and many hundreds of Quechua Indians have gathered and set themselves down around this table, our altar. I hobble and fake my way through the liturgy of the Word, aided by the health workers, who read everything in Quechua.
I know only that I have a crib sheet with some notes I have made, with stolen scriptural quotations, all the while lifting the bread and wine whenever I run out of things to say. I am wandering adrift, trying to gather my shattered self back together again, when a female health worker walks an ancient Quechua woman up to me. Finally she does stop, and I manage to communicate some penance and give her my memorized absolution. I am alone at the top of this mountain, stuck, not only without a ride, but in stultifying humiliation.
With my backpack snug on my shoulder and spirit deflated, I begin to make the long walk down the mountain and back to town.
But before I leave the makeshift soccer field that had been our cathedral, an old Quechua campesino, seemingly out of nowhere, makes his way to me. He appears ancient, but I suspect his body has been weathered by work and the burden of an Indiana€™s life.
As he nears me, I see he is wearing tethered wool pants, with a white buttoned shirt, greatly frayed at the collar. He is at least a foot shorter than I am, and he stands right in front of me and says, a€?Tatai.a€? This is Quechua for Padrecito, a word packed with cariA±o, affection, and a charming intimacy. He looks up at me, with penetrating, weary eyes and says, a€?Tatai, gracias por haber venidoa€? (Thanks for coming). Which is just as well, because before I can speak, the old campesino reaches into the pockets of his suit coat and retrieves two fistfuls of multicolored rose petals. Hea€™s on the tips of his toes and gestures that I might assist with the inclination of my head.
He does this again and again, and the store of red, pink, and yellow rose petals seems infinite. I just stand there and let him do this, staring at my own huaraches, now moistened with my tears, covered with rose petals. Finally, he takes his leave and Ia€™m left there, alone, with only the bright aroma of roses. For all the many times I would return to Tirani and see the same villagers, over and over, I never saw this old campesino again.
More than anything else, the truth of God seems to be about a joy that is a foreigner to disappointment and disapproval.
This joy just doesna€™t know what wea€™re talking about when we focus on the restriction of not measuring up.
This joy, Goda€™s joy, is like a bunch of women lined up in the parish hall on your birthday, wanting only to dance with youa€”cheek to cheek. The God, who is greater than God, has only one thing on Her mind, and that is to drop, endlessly, rose petals on our heads.
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