Tattoos and all

His fingers intertwined with mine, he turned my wrist upward, so that my tattoo was facing him.  He traced it with his thumb and with a smirk on his lips and twinkle in his eye, he asked, “Why’d you get the pi symbol?”

Thank God for the smirk and the twinkle or I’d have hit him.  Because we’d talked about that tattoo on one of our first dates and we’d bonded over the meaning we found in the ink that colored our skin.  And he knew it bothered me when people mistook the Hebrew letter for a math symbol that means nothing to me.

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My family was never big on tattoos and when I was in college and started joking about getting one, my dad, The Colonel, stipulated, “Not while you’re living in my house!” So, when I moved out and started grad school, I got my first tattoo.  It’s small, on my left wrist, covered by a Band-Aid when I walked out of the tattoo parlor. But, it’s an ichthys, and it stands for Jesus, and it reminds me in my darkest moments that the One who is Love loves me: Jesus, anointed, God, Son, Savior.  Sometimes I run my thumb over it while I’m praying; I can’t help it.

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Tav tattooA couple of years later, the pastor of the small church delivered a sermon from Ezekiel, a real fire and brimstone type about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ that was, I think, supposed to fire us up to evangelize and pass out tracts and invite people to church.  But, when he talked about the men commanded to go out and “put a mark on the people” who were grieving for the sin of the people in Jerusalem, and he explained that the mark was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and that it really distinguished people who stood for truth and were “zealous for God,” I was fired up to get a new tattoo.

And so, that’s the tattoo on my right wrist, the one that looks like the pi symbol, but is really the Hebrew letter tav.  It marks me as zealous, as grieving for the broken world, as inspired to make a difference.  It reminds me that God’s heart breaks too, that He wants better for the world and for His people and for all people.  And let’s be honest, it touches on that part of my rebel’s heart that wants to walk with with God, but believes that fire and brimstone sermons and passing out tracts aren’t the steps He’s taking.

Instead, I think the steps He’s taking are the ones that draw us into a deeper knowledge of who He is.  And for me, this meant walking into a tattoo parlor with my college roommate, sitting in a chair, and having Bible study with the tattooist while she put the mark on my arm.

Twice.

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That’s the thing about my tattoos that I’m coming to appreciate now that I have them:  They’re giving me really organic ways to connect with people, like the tattoo artist and, say, the nice boy who holds my hand and also has tattoos.  And I get to talk about God in a non-aggressive, non-threatening way with people who may not know Jesus because, really, I’m just talking about my tattoos.

And so, maybe for the first time ever, I’m walking with God confident in Him and comfortable in my own skin.  Tattoos and all.

an-embodied-story

Note: The was written as a part of a synchroblog at A Deeper Story, where other cool people with cool tattoos are sharing their stories. Make sure you check it out!

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6 thoughts on “Tattoos and all

  1. That Pi symbol sure does make a great tattoo 😉

    You make a great point about your tattoos allowing you to talk about the Gospel in a way that isn’t threatening to others, and I think that’s important–finding that connection with people that is outside of their perception of Christianity, but isn’t at all outside of your perception of Jesus. I think that’s such an important tool for evangelism (not just with tattoos), but one that many Christians have lost.

    1. “…finding that connection with people that is outside of their perception of Christianity, but isn’t at all outside of your perception of Jesus” — yes, that. Exactly that. Thanks for picking up what I’m putting down!

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