Some of you may remember when I first came here, I was asked to answer one of those get-to-know-you questionnaires...you know, answer questions like:
Favorite word: onomatopoeia
Favorite sound: windchimes my parent’s gave me
What do you do when you are bored: run or read
And then, one of them was, “How many tattoos do you have?” Uh, 3. Really.
I remember Sara Hart saying to me, “You know, you don’t have to answer that question if you don’t want to.” I have no idea what she was thinking, but it may have been something like, “Oh boy. What have we gotten ourselves into?”
I mean, not one or two tattoos, but three? Yes, 3. I’m going to tell you a bit about them.
I have a poison dart frog tattoo. I got it in college...to express this idea that no matter our size, we are all beautiful and strong creations. Given the fact that I’m 5’1” - I was making a statement about myself.
I have a cross on my back with the words “Light of the world” under it in Greek... I am literally ‘marked’ with the cross of Christ.
And finally, circling my ankle, I have the word “Ruah” in Hebrew, which means spirit, wind, or breath. We all have different ways of making sense of God, and for me understanding God as spirit, as movement, as force is so very compelling. I like that it’s on my ankle; I sort-of think of it as God’s spirit guiding my feet and walking my paths with me.
Sometimes I hear people say, “If you’re going to get a tattoo, you better be sure you want it for the rest of your life.”
True enough. You are ‘marked’...visibly and permanently. But, what I always tell people when they ask me if I’ve ever regretted getting tattooed is, “No, because I know why I got them.” In my opinion, a ‘genuine’ tattoo tells a story, if it doesn’t, then it’s just decoration.
Often when you ask someone about their tattoo, they’ll invite you into a moment of their life....some sort-of pain or passion or love that you just wouldn’t have known about if the tattoo hadn’t been there to ‘say’ it.
Like my dart frog...it says that...I’m tiny and at times I hated that about myself and I’ve struggled to know that I am strong and ok just the way I am... but with a lot of help and God, I finally figured it out and it’s made all the difference in my life.
Now, I am not up here advocating that we should move worship today over to “Inkers” or “Great Southern Tattoos”, but..
As I read the words from God to us, “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands...” I can’t help but ponder this tattoo imagery. That we are God’s living tattoos - inscribed upon the hands of God.
Today for the most part, if we’re going to get a tattoo, we choose to do so. God chose too...but back then...back when Isaiah was a prophet, the only people who were tattooed were servants and slaves. Not teachers, not students, not home owners or renters, not pastors or lawyers, not engineers or retirees.
Just slaves and servants.
So, it’s stunningly amazing that God, GOD - turns the tables and says, “I’m going to become your servant! I belong to you and to prove it, your name is tattooed onto my hands. I cannot go anywhere without remembering you.”
Since I’ve had a few tattoos carved onto my body, I can’t help but wonder:
“Was it, is it painful for God...inscribing us into his very self?”
Because I bet it was, I bet it is...
It’s the nature of making yourself that vulnerable. Jesus has got nail holes and sword holes and thorn pricks and whip marks all over him because he is absolutely determined to let all of us know that he has our names written into his very flesh.
And that grieves my heart a bit to know that in our being made whole God had to give up so much.
I also wonder, “Did God know...know how very permanent it would be?”
I’m sure. And I’m confident that God would have it no other way. Because it seems to me that every time a child is born, and another named is etched on God’s hands, God doesn’t remember the pain. God sees the creation and wouldn’t change that for anything...just so that child’s name, just so your name, can be on God’s hands.
And I also wonder, “Does God like his tattoo?”
I know God loves his tattoos, because they are an expression of God’s very self. We are an extension of God....
God knows why he got tattooed:
We are an expression of who God is and what God is about.
We cannot be wiped away or forgotten.
We matter a lot to this God who loves us
Even when we think we are forgotten, even when we cry as Zion does, “The Lord has forgotten me!” The LORD hasn’t.
That’s the promise God makes. “Never. Ever....will I forget...you.”
It’s we who forget. As I was thinking about this, how sometimes we forget, or question who we are, or what we are about, I remembered that in Jeremiah and Isaiah and Deuteronomy and Exodus and Hebrews...throughout the Bible, God also promises to tattoo us. Really.
God says, “I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God and they will be my people.”
So....whether you like it or not, you’ve got a tattoo... right on your heart.
While it may sometimes be really, really hard to believe, we never are really alone. Not in life’s prisons or dungeons or any of the ways we exile ourselves.
“See, I have engraved you on my palms.”
He remembers us. Thanks be to God.