The Outlaw Life
[GOD derailed my whole life at a point where I was reaching critical mass, and ever since, I let Him do whatever He wants, no questions asked.]
10 years ago, I got my first tattoo. I honored my parent’s request and waited until after I graduated high school (I went the day after). It’s a tattoo of the hands of Christ holding His Sacred Heart, very similar in fashion to the Irish promise ring (claddagh). It was something I did so that everyday when I look in the mirror, I have to look at that, carved into my skin for the rest of my life. I made a promise to Him based on the promise He gave me (John 3:16). He gave me salvation, I live my life for Him. Not because I’m afraid of hell, but because I can’t live without His love anymore. I played that game, and I almost lost.
As time went on, that one tattoo just wasn’t enough. I kept getting more and more until, now, most of my body is covered. I love tattoos, and I like how mine look. The majority of them are related to my faith. The others are for people I love who passed away and tell other parts of my story.
But someone brought up a very interesting point the other day. Knowing that my tattoos are about my relationship with Jesus, they asked, “If you love Jesus so much, aren’t you not supposed to make a big deal out of it? Doesn’t the bible say not to flaunt it in public?” (Matthew 6:5, Matthew 23:5).
It kind of messed me up for a bit. If I did all of this to myself out of love for GOD, was it because I truly loved Him? Or was it because I wanted other people to know that? For a few days, I almost went into hiding. Normally wearing short sleeve shirts and “jorts” (I know, super hipster of me) during this summer heat, I found myself in a long sleeve button down and jeans as I went from place to place. I covered myself, almost feeling ashamed about how I look. It took a dinner with some friends of ours for me to come to my senses about it. Our friend JR looked at my knuckles and asked what I has tattooed on them. I showed him that they spell “FORGIVEN” across when placed side by side. And as I thought about what that meant, I remembered the most basic thing about my faith; that I was bought, at the highest possible price. That Jesus died a criminal’s death to give me my forgiveness. And if I believed in Him at all, even just a little, then everything has a purpose.
Then I remembered Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:21-23, “To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”.
That call went so deep in my heart. Even as I discerned that I was to work in youth ministry, then young adult ministry, then married life, the call kept ringing. The reason I subjected myself to all the pain and endless hours of tattooing is because Jesus didn’t hide from sinners, but He went to them. He ate dinner with a tax collector, He forgave adulterers and prostitutes, He healed the sick and raised the dead to life all out of love. I spent endless days and nights with people in tattoo shops, bars, clubs, hardcore shows, all looking and acting exactly like me. But no one ever gave them real love, the love of Christ. No one ever came to them, and without judgement, gave them the gospel, heard their story, told them they were loved unconditionally and that they can live that way forever.
So, I stepped outside of the “law” and became an outlaw. I decided that it wasn’t about how people look at me, but I became someone to them. Never once thinking about it, and how it could affect my ability to get jobs or be accepted, I covered my body, so I could become what I needed to be. This is my camouflage. This helps me blend in with all those who feel broken, alone, judged and rejected. In a Church that so often celebrates beauty and life’s magnificence, I went to those who were called ugly and told them just what Jesus told me… “You’re beautiful!”
Besides, we’re all temples of the Holy Spirit. Some of us just spent more time on the decorations.