Once upon a time, 16 years ago (at the ripe old age of 19), I had a vision for a tattoo. I didn’t know that I wanted a tattoo because somehow it seemed against the rules… of both my parents and I think maybe God. But I wasn’t sure. However, I was intrigued enough with the idea that if I got one (someday) it would look like this:
Think of a picture of the world, globe-style, in three puzzle pieces. All three pieces look like they are about to come together, but they don’t quite do so. Superimposed behind the world is the cross.
The image represented a broken world that could possibly come together in harmony if we chose to live with Christ at the center of our lives.
I thought about this tattoo idea for years, and, once in a while, revealed my idea to a friend or two if the topic of tattoos came up in conversation. As I thought about this image, I felt like it wasn’t complete. It needed something—words, but I didn’t know which ones. There was a deep feeling in my gut to wait and listen. Surprisingly, I also found myself at times praying to God for both permission to get a tattoo, and the words this image needed.
Last summer (July 2014), my husband and I were listening to my workout playlist. The song “City on our Knees” by Toby Mac came up, which I had heard a zillion times. But, on this day, in this moment in the car with my husband, the lyric “One choice from together” resounded like a clanging cymbal in my ear so loudly that I felt it moving in my heart. I gasped, “These are the words! These are the words for that tattoo I’ve been thinking about for the last kazillion years!”
There was a funny feeling, though, that this image still wasn’t complete.
As I continued to think more seriously about actually, maybe, for real putting this thing on my body, I still felt like somehow I was breaking rules. Was it okay as lover of God to have a tattoo? Would I be sinning if I got one? I consulted my friend Nikki who, covered in tattoos, has the most intimate relationship with Christ than anyone I have ever met; I read the Bible looking for a clear “yay” or “nay”; I prayed: “Lord, I feel like you are giving me this idea, but I feel like somehow it is SO wrong. Help me understand.”
So I continued to wait.
Several months ago, one of my pastors was digging deep into the meaning of the word “Shalom.” The concept of a godly, heavenly, supernatural peace that integrates into every area of life was so beautiful to me that I was moved to tears. This time, rather than a clanging cymbal in my ears, I heard a whisper so clear as if I was the only one in the room, “This shall go on the tattoo.”
As I prayed, two more words came to my heart: “Agape” and “Life.” These three words were to be incorporated onto the cross of the image, but they all needed to be in ancient language. I prayed again and was led to learn what Jesus’ original language was and how the word Life translated. Chay. Life was to read “Chay.” And with this, the image finally felt complete.
It was time. Somehow in the deepest part of me, far beyond the doubt I felt about “breaking rules,” I knew it was time to get the tattoo. But where? With whom?
I asked God, “Lord if you want me to get this thing, you’re going to have to tell me where to go.”
Last October, I was at a women’s retreat. A young girl, named Mandi, was standing next to me in the bathroom. She had the most lovely tattooed rose vine going down the side of her torso. I had to inquire. “Wow! Your tattoo is so beautiful. Can you tell me about it?”
In the course of this conversation I learned that Mandi and her father spend time together getting tattoos. It was their thing. Her father had just had the armor of God tattooed on his shoulder. I felt the spiritual tap on my own shoulder to get the parlor and artist name: Atlas Tattoo and Jerry Ware.
In February of 2015, I walked into Atlas Tattoo in North Portland and asked for Jerry. I described the image to Jerry, and for the first time ever, I saw the a rough sketch of the design that had been in my head for so long come out onto paper. I was in love. It would be another four months before I could get the tattoo, though, because Jerry was in high demand.
Finally, on May 19, 2015, I walked into Atlas tattoo ready. When Jerry showed me the final design, it was about a bazillion times bigger than I had originally envisioned it, but I remember Mandi saying, “You don’t want to be too controlling with your design because remember, the artist is an artist. You want to let the artist have room to be inspired by the design.”
When I saw the final design, it was more beautiful than I had imagined and I knew it was perfect.
Two hours, (and a lot of pain and swear words later), I was forever committed to this image. I was elated! I knew in the depths of my heart that this was the fruition of a 16-year conversation with God and the beginning of my life-long commitment to God that I am all in for the Kingdom of God–no matter what.
This tattoo was God’s design, not mine. While I experienced great pain, I knew it didn’t even come close to the pain Jesus felt on the cross that day. I am now forever branded into the Kingdom of God, so thankful to have been invited, and so excited to let others know that they are too.
And when we choose Christ to be the center of our lives, we choose godly Love, godly Peace, and everlasting Life. There is nothing more special than this–no doubt.