My Take on my Tattoo

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… 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… 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)

The Mark of My Wife on her 40th

Ok, so here it is. This is not Melody. I am not sassy. I’m not a pastor’s wife. I’m told I tend to ramble, but what do you expect from a pastor. 

I’m her husband and I’m writing my first ever “guest blog” entry for my wife.

Today is my wife’s 40th birthday so I have commandeered Melody’s blog to tell you about my amazing wife and our…interesting weekend. If you know Melody, or have gotten to know her through her blog, you already know how precious, fun, lively, unpredictable, profound, “God-besoughted” (sorry for the preachery, Puritan word…but that is my wife – she goes hard after God and I love her for that, and for so much more) my wife is.

Turning 40 is a deal. It can be a big deal…or it can be a “just another deal”…or it can be a “my life is over, I have more years behind me than I have in front of me, WHY IS LIFE SO CRUEL AND I’M SO OLD!!” deal. Melody is not that bad, but she has gotten reflective – contemplative even (have I mentioned I love her!)

So, three days ago, Melody calls me on my cell phone and says “I know what I want to get for my birthday.” Now, any husband knows how good those words sound coming from his wife! That just takes the angst of having to find the perfect, thoughtful, unique gift that she doesn’t already have, that says “I love you”, that is the right size, the right color and is timeless and modern all at the same time!!! She tells me it is something she has been thinking about for a long time and that she wants to tell me to my face because she really wants me to seriously think about it. Ok, now I’m getting a little bit nervous. Does she want a dog (yeah!), a new baby (uh, not with this husband!), a new husband (ok, I’ll get a new baby as long as you let me stay!)?

No, she tells me she wants a tattoo.

As strange as this sounds, this is not a big shock. I know my wife. I know she has thought about this for a long time. Understand, my wife is not a “biker chick”. She is sassy and likes tea cups and scones – she is not likely to get into a bar fight any time soon. But she has always thought it would be neat to have a permanent mark on her that means something. She has been moved by the idea of a tattoo but has been scared of the needle. But now, in her mid-life marking, contemplative, reflective, taking stock of life mood, she decided that this was the time. She said “what do you think? If you’re not for it, I won’t do it and I’ll be fine.” and she means it (did I tell you love her?). I told her “Let’s go!” She said “Seriously? Wait……I’m scared, I don’t know if I can do this!!!” This was also not a big shock. I know my wife. I knew I was going to have to talk her into doing her own idea – and I’m ok with that, because I know her heart and this is something I know she wants, and I want it for her.

I asked her what she wanted and she knew. “I want the name of God, Elohim, and I think I want it in Hebrew.” So we sat down together on Thursday night and looked at designs and thought of how big it should be. We had some really interesting conversations about is it wrong for Christians to get a tattoo because Leviticus 19:28 says “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” Doesn’t that mean tattoos are wrong? But the same chapter says to “not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” (vs 27) to “not plant your field with two kinds of seed.” (vs 19) nor to “wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” (vs 19). So unless you you have sideburns the length of your elbow, are passionately against planting corn and peas in the same garden and have never ever (!) worn a cotton/poly blend then the argument is misguided and misunderstood. We also talked about the thought of is this “taking the name of the Lord in vain?” Is putting the name Elohim on your body disrespectful? I don’t believe it has to be – it could be, but it doesn’t have to be. The name of God is sacred and not to be taken lightly. Casually throwing around the name of God is wrong, but that is not what she’s doing. This is a sacred reminder…an act of worship for her. My thought was: would you have a problem with someone writing a book and titling it Elohim: My Creator God? We came to the conclusion that putting the name of God in the title of a book or a blog was not wrong, so the respectful use of the name of God can be appropriate and healthy.

So I asked her, “where are you going to put this?” She said, “I’m not looking to make it really all that visible. This is something personal for me. I think I want it on the back of my neck.” She said “I just want to have a reminder of the presence of God with me all the time. It’s not something that people will necessarily always see, but I will know it is always there. I like the idea of having a visible mark of ownership of God on me.” This is not the “pensive turning 40” thing talking. That is just the depth of my wife (did I tell you I love her?).

I love the idea of this mark. The meaning of it is really profound to me. The thought that Melody will never actually see this tattoo with her own eyes because it is on the back of her neck is really interesting to me. She will only be able to see it through the lens of something else. Other people can see directly, but she can’t. The only way she can see it is to look in a mirror (actually, use a mirror to look into another mirror to see it). She can see pictures of it. She can see video of it. She can hear other people describe it. But she will never see it with her own eyes. The mark of God is on her literally and spiritually. She doesn’t always see it but it is there. Others see it in her even when she doesn’t see it. It seems to me to be a reminder that while she does not see God directly, she can always see Him through the lens of other things. She can see Him through the lens of Scripture or the lens of circumstances or the lens of the witness of what others see. If I keep pushing the thought, I love the reminder the picture provides that God is always with her where ever she goes. That He is “behind” her as she goes through her life. It calls to my mind the “pleroma” of the Holy Spirit that Paul talks about in Ephesians 5:18 when he calls us to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”. The idea of “pleroma” is the picture of wind filling the sails on a ship. The unseen wind fills and drives the vessel forward. The name of God is literally on her back and pictures to me the driving force of the Holy Spirit for her in her life.

So off we went to Little John’s Tattoo. Chris did a great job and I really think the anticipation of the pain hurt worse than the actual procedure. “Did it hurt?” The look Melody shot me was all I needed to know. It hurt, but she made it.

So here I am, with my wonderful, beautiful wife who is simmering into the age of her 40’s. Not everyone will or should get tattooed. And yes, she thought it would be “sooooooo romantic for both of us to get tattoos together!!!!!!!!!!!” And no, I’m not that romantic. It’s not for me, but is for her – and I would go far enough to say that this is an act of worship for my wife that is in response to God’s pleasure. How cool is it to have a wife who will love and listen to God like that?

You never know what my wife is going to do next. She is unpredictable and crazy. Thoughtful and compassionate. Devoted to God and passionately pursues Him. She loves my kids and leads them to Christ everyday. She is patient with me and supportive of God’s work in my life and makes me way better of a man than I rightfully should be. What can I say – she loves me…and there is no greater treasure God could give me other than Himself.

Can you believe my wife has a tattoo?

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