Written in my flesh…

angfinal.jpgFor about 20 years I have been considering getting a tattoo. I began sketching ideas out when I was in college. I ran across these recently in fact, tucked into one of my songwriting journals. The designs center mostly around music, punk rock and rebellion. I look at these designs now and am happy that God embued in me some sense of discernment even though I was not even aware of it at the time. When I look back upon what stayed my hand for so long in getting the tattoo I can point to several things…dissatisfaction with the images I was considering, the promise of pain, fear of needles…but about 5 years ago I got a deeper clue into this. I was still pining for a tattoo and beginning, once again to seek out an image with which I was comfortable marrying to my body.

Someone challenged me at that point to consider whether or not “Christians” should tattoo their bodies. The verse they tossed out was this one;
“You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28 — New American Standard

This, at first blush seems pretty convincing until you look at the context of the passage. God is speaking about His chosen people behaving as the heathens behaved, marking themselves in religious ceremonies. Since I consider myself under the New Covenant rather than the Abrahamic Covenant I’d have to say that I am not sure this passage, applied literally, is a convincing reason for me to avoid tattoos.

That being said, this discussion with my friend actually ignited something in me. The WHY became the real question. Why did I want a tattoo? Was it so that I could look cool? So that I could shock someone? Was the tattoo for me or for someone else? Why? What does it mean to me?

I remember the day I realized what it was, the moment I understood my “why”….my heart, actually still leaps when I think about my reasons for choosing to do this. I think about the apostle Paul who wrote in his second letter to Timothy:

“But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 2:23-25

I was taken with the idea of the bondservant. Paul refers to himself as the bondservant many times in the New Testament. This is how the bondservant is explained in the book of Exodus:

“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. “If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. “If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. “But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ “then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” Exodus 21:1-6

To be a bondservant of God as I understand it and as Paul uses the term means that we are given the CHOICE to go free. We are offered the chance to do what we like to go where we will and yet…we choose, rather to stay. I love my master, I will not go free. The bond servant is then “marked” to show that he is a free man who chooses to stay with a master he loves.

Many times in my faith I have been given the chance to “go free.” Each time, I’ve looked around and breathed in the air around me. I have waited and watched and each time I have turned around and chosen to be the bondservant of God. This in mind, I found my “why.”
I considered myself, already a bondservant of the Lord and now, I was choosing to mark myself in that way. God is already written in my spirit and now He becomes written in my flesh as well.

Now, the next question I get about this…what if I change my mind later? To this I say that I have been considering this for nigh on 20 years. I’ve chosen the design very carefully. I know the “why” and I cannot imagine what would have to occur for that “why” to no longer become true. I cannot imagine waking up one day after living this closely to my Creator and seeking after Him with my broken spirit over the last 30 something years and thinking, “you know, this whole Jesus thing looks to be a hoax, how could I have been so silly.”

I guess that is a possibility. But I kind of look at my commitment to Christ in the same way I look at my commitment to my marriage. When we were engaged Dave asked me what I thought of divorce. Well, my parents are divorced so I guess I thought, “hey, if it’s not working out that’s an option….” but he asked something of me. Could I commit to a “no divorce” marriage? It kind of blew me away. I was like, “yes…yes, I can…and I want to!” To be honest, I hadn’t actually considered that an option before!

I had a single friend at the time who didn’t think that was possible. He said that there was NO WAY we could make that commitment. And in some ways he was right, we cannot guarantee anything, we have no control over so many things, lots could change. But the promise that we made on the day we got married was that we commited to marry the person before us and the person we each would become for better or for worse.

That being said, if Dave starts chasing me around the house with a butcher knife we’ll have to make some adjustments! Obviously he will have broken the agreement (love, honor, cherish!) And I am not advocating that people whose marriages (or any relationship) have become abusive should just stick it out no matter what, I’m just saying this is the agreement we’ve made in our marriage.

Now if I take this same attitude toward my commitment to Christ and apply it (which I do) I have this great thing that happens. God doesn’t change. He doesn’t become abusive, He doesn’t drink too much, He doesn’t have the vices or problems of humans so the unstable variable in our relationship is me.

Now here is the REAL consideration…when I’m 103 and in the hands of skilled nursing professionals at the nursing home are they going to snicker at the old lady with the tattoo on her back?

Oh, what do I care? I’ll be happily humming “Be thou my vision” and smiling like a nut.

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22 thoughts on “Written in my flesh…

  1. That is a very pretty tattoo. I will pray you have no pain.

    Mrs, you always smile like a nut, so having a tattoo won’t make a difference on THAT part of you in the nursing home when you are 103. Bwahahahaha.

  2. You’ve given this quite a bit of thought. That’s great. Some people still may judge you for it, but who cares? They’ll be judgmental anyway and you’ll have you’re cool tattoo. I think tattoos shouldn’t be random ink marks on your body–that they should hold meaning for you. Yours obviously will. I wish you the best through your process (don’t focus on the needles on your skin) and share a pic when it’s done. The healing is itchy–don’t scratch it or pick at it! My 2 weakenesses. LOL 🙂

  3. Your design is beautiful. 20 years — I’d say you’ve thought it out pretty well! I wish you the best, and you know I’ll want to see pics.

  4. Hi Mrs,

    I enjoyed your writing this morning. I personally don’t think God cares if we have tattoo’s as long as our deeds are good. Your deeds are ‘all good.’

    The only thing with yours is I wonder why are you putting it somewhere you can’t see? Don’t you want to see it? Also, I look at the WWII veterans and see their tatoos and hear how they got them and they are all faded. I’m sure they use different ink now but make a promise that you will have it fixed up every ten years so it doesn’t look old/faded etc… that way when you hit 100 you have another 10 years to go, and instead of those nurses snickering at you. They will say, “Holy cow…this great grandma has a NEW tattoo” and YOU can do all the snickering.

    PPPJ

  5. That’s brilliant. I am right with you about the choosing to stay. Tattoos… nah, not my thing but I hope yours comes out the way you want and that you are happy with the results – I wouldn’t be snickering at a 100 year old with a tattoo by the way… or at least, not unless it was spelled wrong or something. I like your design and I like your reasons. Also like your take on the OT. I think there is a danger of the wrong kind of Christians using quotes from the Old Testament to give authority to their own personal views and dictats as if they are gods. Naughty.

    Good luck with the tat, hope there is no smarting!

    Cheers

    BC

  6. Mrs. M — I cannot believe how similar our thought processes are! I am really blown away, actually. The one big difference is that 20 years ago I was as certain as a person could be that I did NOT want a tattoo. Then about 5 years ago I decided I really wanted one, but couldn’t begin to imagine what I would want tattooed on my body until I’m 103.

    Then it hit me. What do I see as permanent in my life? My faith, my marriage and my children. Hans and I even had a very similar “no divorce” talk before we became engaged. It was an absolute deal breaker for me if he didn’t agree. I probably heard you and Dave talk about it before I even met Hans and it stuck. Oh, how the lessons of the Metanoia days thrive and sustain me!

    Now, here’s the kicker! The way I feel I can best symbolize in a tattoo my commitment to my God, my husband and my children is with . . . a CELTIC KNOT! I envision a knot, very similar to yours without the “wings”. I would have my name along with Hans’ and the girls’ in a Celtic-looking font encircling the knot. It would symbolize for me our familial commitment with Christ at the center.

    Are you getting yours on the day of your birthday? I can’t tell you how tempted I am to come down! Seri. Ous. Ly.

  7. Way to go MRS! I lurve tattoos. I have two and want more. Beware, they are very addicting! It also doesn’t hurt that bad depending on where you get it and if the tattooist is good. Some of them go too deep and then there is scarring which fades the color. Anyway, I say tattoo away. When you die you can’t take your body with you anyway!

  8. I cant stand tatoos and I wonder why people want them. Is it because other people are getting them? They remind me of sailors..LOL I dont knock those who want them I guess Im just old fashioned but if you DO get one please dont make it permanent you may want to take it off later..just a thought!

  9. LOL, well Colleen, I think it’s just more a personal preference than anything else. I’ve never been one to do something just because everybody else does it…it goes against my grain for the most part.

    thanks for the comments! It’s cool to see you over here…

  10. Well hello there Mrs. M! How have you been? I love this post! I got my tattoo because I have ALWAYS wanted one, as long as I can remember. I think they are so beautiful. I decided that I was decorating my temple, not destroying it 🙂 I like your reasoning also, and I actually read that verse a long time ago and thought “should I pierce my ear then??” hehe. But for me, getting my tattoo was about doing something that I wanted to do, and not doing it (or NOT doing it) for other people. I thought long and hard, and decided that I only get one life, so why not?!

    Did you get yours yet??

  11. Mrs, did you get the tattoo you wanted to celebrate your birthday? You can see mine on my new blog (linked to my new username). I got it 6 years ago. It is black, like yours, and has not faded. I’m really pleased with my decision to get it. I hope you will be pleased with yours too! 🙂

  12. Saw your post on the CTA site…I live in the Chicago area…can point you in a few different directions…you should check out my page http://www.myspace.com/emeitalia if you have a myspace account…I have my tattoo pic up. I have a butterfly (yeah, I know…cliched~got it when I was 18) on the top of my foot. If I can do the top of my foot without crying, you’ll be fine 😉 I’m going to get a lot more tattoos when the money is right…..God Speed with it =)

    ~Emily

  13. Pingback: Finally….the end result « Mrs Metaphor

  14. Well, I am going to have my mid-life crisis tattoo done on my very lower back so it will not be visible, it is for me and me alone, I have been thinking about it for about 25 years; and suddenly with a change in my personal life; I feel ready to do this, it feels right.
    I am a medical professional, intelligent and well read. I think I held back because of the stereotype of the type of “ladies” who get tattoos. Well, times are a changing, and I think the time for categorizing people because of certain choices they make are over.
    I am going for a celtic heart over my butt crack, it will be small and discreet, a stealth tattoo, and at my age my skin is already stretched and saggy lol, so bring it on!

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