Right up there with enjoying a glass of wine, dancing or listening to secular music, tattoos were on the naughty list for a long time in the Christian circle. I feature my ‘ink’ on Val’s Stage this week after a certain celebrity posted a video of himself diving into his pool for one last autumn dip, and folks on social media went ballistic as they realized that his body is a canvas for a lot of tattoo ink. The price you pay for being popular is that everyone is up in your business.
I’ve seen some crazy tattoos. A young girl working in a mall store had a huge arm and shoulder tattoo of Strawberry Shortcake and her castle, and I honestly tried picturing her in a wedding dress with that image inked there. My inner voice asked, “Did you think this through?” While visiting a tattoo establishment for one of my own inked artworks, I also saw a young man walk out with an amazing image of Jason Alexander covering his entire calf. You might be a fan of George on the Seinfeld series, but really? You know that’s permanent, right? You’ve seen them too – tattoos that make you question the owner’s sanity. And then I remind myself that judging others isn’t very Christian of me.
There seems to be a definitive line in the sand dividing those who believe in the purity of their skin in their ink-freeness and those who like displaying symbols of their values in a more permanently-needled way. The truth is that it’s rare to see someone with only one tattoo – it can actually become very addictive. Falling into the latter category, I have four.
My first was a heart on my shoulder symbolizing Love. Who doesn’t need some Love in their lives? Why not have a reminder that I found Love, in addition to the diamond on my finger (which I had to remove last month because the amount of hand sanitizer I have to use as a teacher was destroying my finger under the ring)?
Next was Family. I got an anklet with charms displaying the initial letters of each of my boys: R, D and B. Proud Mama here of each of them. Now that they all live on their own, I appreciate having this symbol of still being a Mom.
God was my next inspiration, while third is not where I’d place him on my priority list. A small cross on my wrist; not only does it brand me as His, it reminds myself to act as His child.
Finally, I wanted a representation of my Roots. On my calf, I proudly wear a Made in Newfoundland image, even though we’ve lived “away” for almost 20 years.
Each of my tattoos was planned and thought through before booking the appointment. These values are permanent, so, in my mind, the ink’s permanency is acceptable. On this Thanksgiving weekend, each one is also a reminder of things I am most grateful for.
Yet, the action of inking these values on my skin does not give others a guarantee that I truly value Love, Family, God or Roots unless I show these values in tangible ways in how I live. (I wonder how someone shows their true devotion to Strawberry Shortcake…)
Actions speak louder than tattoos. My faithfulness, respect, and thoughtful gestures speak louder of my Love to my husband than the heart on my shoulder. My support, guidance, and helping hand to my sons speak louder of my Family value than the inked anklet charms. I’m not sure what actions reflect the value of Roots except maybe hanging photos of the island on my wall, adding salt beef and doughboys to my pea soup, and at times speaking with a distinct accent. My reflection of God’s image – showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – speaks louder of my love for God than a small cross on my wrist.
When you consider getting some ink needled into your skin, I believe it should be preceded by a period of reflection on your values. When people look at your choices of tattoos, also recognizing that they are not cheap, they get a sense of who you are. Some will argue that tattoos are personal – they are not for others. The image that you present; the way you dress, how you style your hair, the tattoos on your body, can be one of two things: a mirror of your soul or a mask. They’re only personal if you never leave your house.
The heart tattoo on my shoulder can mirror the Love I feel for others or it can be a mask – showing my desire to make others believe I have Love in my life when maybe I don’t. One motivation is very honest, while the other is a reflection of living a lie.
All that to say, I have permanently inked my body with things that I now have to be accountable for. My life on Val’s Stage should reflect those things that I am advertising. On my own, that’s a big responsibility. But I’m not on my own. God’s grace gives me power. I lean into Him and ask for His help.
Help me especially live up to wearing your cross, Lord – the symbol of Your love.
Let my actions speak of my heritage – I am a child of God.