(The following story is a re-telling of a story told by Brennan Manning in The Furious Longing of God)
Once upon a time there was a college student named Larry. Larry was rather large. Fat actually, and unkempt. He wore jeans that had seen better days, a constantly dirty t-shirt and no shoes.
He was as low in self-esteem as one can sink and still manage to survive, if that is what you call what Larry was doing.
He had no social life, for he was labeled by everyone as “ugly”.
One year, at Christmas time, Larry found himself back home with his parents in Rhode Island. Larry’s father was a typical lace-curtain Irishman. That meant on the hottest of days he would come to the dining table with a tie and suit on; he spoke in subdued tones.
As the New Year approached, Larry told his Dad he needed to get back to school the next day.
“What time, son?”
“Well, I’ll ride the bus with you as far as I can.”
The next morning Larry and his father rode the bus to his dad’s work place where Larry caught another bus to go to the airport.
There was a group of men in front of his dad’s work place and they began making loud and degrading remarks to Larry. “Oink, oink, oink. Look at that fat pig.”
Another man remarked, “If that slob was my kid he’d be out the door so fast, he wouldn’t know if he’s on foot or horseback. Hey pig! Give us your best oink.”
The harsh words continued.
At that moment Larry’s father, for the first time in his life, reached out and embraced him, kissed him and said, “Larry, if your mother and I live to be two hundred years old, that wouldn't be long enough to thank God for the gift He gave to us in you. I am so proud that you are my son!”
What amazing and informational words those were.
Here’s what happened.
Larry went back to school. He remained a hippie, but he cleaned up the best he could. He began dating and to top it off, became the president of one of the fraternities. He also managed to "squeak" by with a 4.2 grade point average. He had what you might call a brilliant mind.
On June 14, 1974 Larry was ordained a priest in the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island. After being ordained, he spent the next twenty years as a missionary in South America, living a life of total service to others in a redemptive and grace-filled way.
Why the transformation? Why did Larry turn from being a fat slob and an aimless nobody?
For one defining moment in time, Larry felt unconditional love from his father. That moment changed his life forever. His father healed him.
Did you read that right?
His father HEALED him!
His father had the guts to give Larry the blessing he so desperately needed in the face of cursing and taunts. His father looked deeply into his son’s eyes and saw the good that Larry couldn’t see for himself. He affirmed Larry with a furious love, and changed the whole direction of his son’s life.
Changed by furious love!
What an amazing transformation.
Larry is the vehicle for this story, but it was his father’s love that this story is really about.
People cross our paths daily. Some are casual acquaintances; some are intimate loved ones and friends. But what matters is how we see each relationship.
--Maybe you work on a college or university campus and you interact with students all day long.
--Maybe you are a boss and have an employee who needs just the right word from you to effect his/her transformational moment.
--Perhaps you have a friend who is desperate for those words of healing.
--The person most in need of your transformational words might just be a sibling or your own child.
Regardless, there are some people whose destinies could be changed in the blink of an eye with just the right words spoken at the precise moment in time when they are needed the most.
Will you be that person speaking those words?
My wish, my prayer for you, is to see those close to you as redeemable. Show them grace in a graceless world. Dare to love with furious love.
Love that is blind to circumstances, physical attributes body odor and clothing style.
Love that is blind to racial differences, religious opposites, and life-style choices.
Show Furious Love.
What an amazing concept.