Why “ink”?

20 06 2013

Earlier this week, I did something I never thought I’d do…

I got a tattoo.

My youngest, Megan, has been obsessed with getting one ever since she turned 18 last fall. She spent way too much time googling tattoo ideas, which she kept running by me to see my reaction. Most of her initial concepts provoked a roll of my eyes and a sigh. I told her she had to wait until graduation, secretly hoping she would lose interest in the idea, but figuring that at least by then she would have had time to come up with something truly meaningful that she could live with for the rest of her life.

This spring, she finally landed on something: “It is finished” — the last words of Jesus from John 19:30 — in Hebrew (we tried for Aramaic, but it looked basically the same as the Hebrew lettering), inked on her right side to represent where Jesus was speared by the Roman soldier. So it was decided.

And then, she asked if I would get one, too. (Sigh. If you have read my earlier blogs, you know that this child often manages to get me into stuff that’s out of my comfort zone.)

I had to admit that I always thought small ones, especially of religious symbols like Celtic crosses, were kind of cool — but not for me. Besides that, I couldn’t think of anything I would want permanently etched on my body. But I made her a deal: “If you can come up with an idea for something that would really be meaningful to me, I’ll do it.” So, of course, she did.

My favorite scripture is Micah 6:8, which says, “What does God require of us? To do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” To me, this verse sums up the way we should live our lives. It’s the gospel in a nutshell — sweet and simple. And since I’m terrible at memorizing anything, I also love that it’s short enough for me to remember.

On Tuesday, we went to Main Street Tattoos, and a nice young man named Jesse engraved these words in a lovely script on my right foot, from my ankle to just above my little toe: Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly. (And yes — it hurt. Quite a lot.)

I have to admit — I love it.

As my pastor, Arden Gilmer, commented on my facebook post of my new acquisition, this is my way of living out Deuteronomy 6:6-9: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Jesus asks us to live in a way that’s often out of our comfort zones. And sometimes, he asks us as individuals to do things that are way out of character for us. I’m not a tattoo kind of person. I don’t ride Harleys, pierce body parts beyond my earlobes, or smoke Hookah pipes. But I’m serious about my faith, and I wanted a tangible, visible symbol of it that’s more permanent than the silver cross I wear on a leather strap around my neck.

I know many of my fellow Christians would disagree with me, and maybe even cite Leviticus 19:28, the one scripture that specifically prohibits tattoos, as evidence. (As we were talking about the meaning behind my choice of tattoo, Jesse-the-tattoo-artist told me that another Christian client of his got a nasty message from someone in her church, who told her that “only whores get tattoos.” Nice. That’s a very Christ-like response, huh?)

If one is going to use Leviticus 19:28 as ammunition, one also has to observe the commands in the rest of that chapter, which include not eating steak, not eating fruit from a tree that’s less than three years old, not harvesting their field a second time if they miss anything (but rather leaving it for the poor to glean), and not mixing two kinds of fibers in their clothing (so no more polyester blends). There’s also a lot of good stuff in that chapter that applies in any situation, but we must always realize that each book of scripture was for a specific time and place, so we have to take time to look at the purpose behind these commandments. Leviticus 19:28 says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am The Lord.” In that time and that place, pagan rituals –such as marking up your body to honor the dead — were an issue. And if today’s Christians were getting tattoos to honor the dead, that would definitely be a problem.

But followers of Jesus getting tattoos to honor him? Let’s let God be the judge of that.

For me, this “ink” will be a constant reminder to walk the talk. To be the hands and feet of Jesus in my community. And to do this with love and humility, not arrogance or condescension.

Maybe it’s foolish. But God wants us to be fools for him.

David celebrated his love for God by dancing in his underwear in public. That’s a bit of a stretch for me… so I just got a tattoo.


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