Getting a tattoo has opened up a lot of conversations and dialogue in the past week. People have emailed, texted and called me wanting to talk about it and it’s been sort of neat to be able to talk about God in this way and to hear other people’s stories too…..to share parts of my faith in random, choppy ways. As time goes on my prayer is that God will use this mark to engage in divine conversations. It was so wild because when Randy and I were having lunch at the Mellow Mushroom trying to kill time before my tattoo appointment we had the slip of paper that had “Elohim” written in Hebrew in four different font sizes. We were still talking through which one to use. I had picked out the smallest one but the tattoo dudes were saying it was too small. So our waiter comes up to us and points to the paper and says, “What does that mean?” I told him and he said, “My friend has that written on his arm but I’ve never asked what it was.” I wish I had thought to say, “Well, you ought to ask him about it and what it means to him.” Because I bet that dude would be so excited to share His God with a friend who might not know Him personally. And what if I got more bold myself and could share a quick short answer to what Elohim means to me in two minutes or less! And I haven’t even told you about the part my gay hairdresser plays in all this. That’s for another day. It’s cool to see God work through something as crazy weird as a tattoo.
I don’t want to say what Randy already so eloquently posted, but I do need to say for myself that the whole tattoo thing for me was personal and something with deeper meaning than just a stamp. Acknowledging God as Creator in a permanent way reminds me that God is all powerful and I wouldn’t exist without Him. And I am nothing without Him. In fact I can’t help but think of God my Creator having a plan to spare my unborn life because abortion was a very serious consideration by my parents. But God…..my Creator sustained my life for his glory. Knowing that His name is on my neck where others can see but I can’t reminds me that I wear Jesus every day……and it leaves me wondering what people see. Of course I don’t have to have a tattoo to remind myself of these things. And having a tattoo doesn’t make me the slightest bit spiritual and it also doesn’t mean I’m rebellious or whacked. Even though I have been rebellious in my heart before and have done some crazy things. For me, it’s a symbol and a reminder. And love how symbols and reminders are used all through scripture as a learning tool for God’s people.
Saying all that I still have to acknowledge the fact that as a pastor’s wife getting a tattoo is a little out of the box. Okay, maybe the box is in another room. I don’t know. It all depends on where you’re coming from with it. I’m pretty sure my Mom is picturing the box in another country and she’s desperately hoping I’ll catch a flight and climb back in.
So how exactly does one tell her very refined, southern Christian mother that she got a tattoo? This was my dilemma. Some of you are thinking, “You just don’t get one, that’s how!” But if it’s too late and you already have one then breaking the news is inevitable unless it’s like on your fanny or something. Heyyyyyy, why didn’t I think of that?! I’m Kidding. I knew I could just wear my hair up and casually stand in front of my Mom for her to notice the tattoo and pretend it was just like a new piece of jewelry or something or I could show it to her straight. I decided to just show her and tell her.
This is how the confession went down with “Ms. Sue” as most of my friends call my sweet Mamma.
Remember I had the tattoo for all of one day and was having to wash it four times a day with antibacterial soap and put ointment on it so it could heal properly. And I was fanatical about it because I tend to fall into that small percentage disclaimer they always throw out with stuff…… “3% of people get an infection after their tattoo and their skin withers up and falls off.” I was doing things by the book.
So the following conversation took place in the bathroom (as if I was in middle school):
Me: Mom, if I show you something do you promise not to be mad at me?
Mom: What is it? Did you break something of Gran’s. No, I won’t be mad. Show me.
Me: pulled up my hair and showed her my “Elohim” tattoo written in Hebrew
Mom: gasps for air and licks her finger with all the gusto you can imagine and tries to wipe it off thinking it’s a joke.
Me: MOM!!!! You can’t do that! You can’t touch it. Now I’m going to die of a gangrene infection! I can’t believe you did that.
Mom: That thing is not real!
Me: It is real, Mom.
Mom: What does it say?
Me: Um. I love you Mom, in Greek?
No, I didn’t say that but I told her the meaning and she shook her head and said, “You have always wanted a tattoo.”
I’m not kidding anyone…I knew there would be, will be people who don’t like the idea of a tattoo for different reasons. And that’s okay. I respect that and don’t feel the need to always have to explain myself or defend myself. Mom joked around with me about it later on and she thanked me for showing her in private and for telling her first (well, after Randy and one other friend whose opinion I really wanted to get before having it done.) and I can only hope she’s not just completely mor.ti.fied. I’m thinking I’ll be wearing my hair down when she’s sitting next to me at church. And singing real loud to make up for the heathen that was birthed inside me.
Without trying to belabor the topic, I thought I’d share with you some repeated questions I’ve been asked this week.
Will you wear your hair down all the time to cover it up? No, I won’t hide it but I won’t be doing updo’s all the time to flaunt it either. My hair is super long right now and it’s driving me crazy so I am prone to wear it in a clip more and have found myself wanting to pull that clip out as I approach older people at church. I do think we make judgments about tattooed people at face value and so I fall into that fear of what others will think of me at times. Randy says “own it” but don’t flaunt it. Trying to remember that.
Do Mitchell and Sophie know? Yes, we showed them and told them what it was and what it meant to me. I said it was a serious decision and that you don’t do things like that until you’re a grown adult.
Did it hurt and how long did it take? Yes, it hurt. I’d say a 6 on a 1-10 scale. The anticipating what it was going to feel like was worse. All I could think about was “sewing machine” and “surgery” with no anesthesia. But of course that was dramatic and it wasn’t anything like that. It took about 15-20 minutes.
Why did you choose behind the neck? It was my first instinct to put it there because I can conceal it if I want to. I also love the fact that I will never see it the way others do.
You know what they say about tattoos…….. “They’re addictive. Like eating chips.” I seriously don’t see myself with another tattoo. But who knows, maybe I’ll go for the wings across my shoulder blades next time.
I love my tattoo. It feels awesome to have done something on my “bucket list” that I never ever thought I’d actually do. And even more than that I love what it means to me.
Well, I’m off to put on my biker leathers and spikes. I’ll catch you at the next truck stop! (sorry Mom)