I very vividly remember getting my first tattoo. It was a bitterly cold day in February 2011, my sophomore year of undergrad. I was sitting in bedroom in my on-campus apartment (which I shared with five other ladies), when one of my roommates popped her head inside the door.
“I want to do something reckless before I turn 21,” she said. “Will you get a tattoo with me?”
I had already wanted a tattoo, so I quickly agreed. After deciding what we wanted and discussing how painful it might be (it really wasn’t painful – we were just scared), we (along with another roommate) jumped in the car and headed off to the tattoo parlor.
Did I mention we drove there in the middle of a blizzard?
That was my first tattoo: “love never fails” written on my foot in script, with a small red heart next to it. Although that phrase is from 1 Corinthians 13, I was going through a difficult time in my relationship, and it was a reminder to myself that God’s love is perfect and never fails – even though human love fails us constantly.
For me, there is an element of redemption in every tattoo. Each prick of the needle is a reminder that I have been permanently impacted by an event in my past, and that event has shaped who I am. I have overcome significant battles and, although I still struggle with the scars they’ve left on my heart and mind, I am better and stronger because of them.
Tattoos are reminders of my victories, permanently embedded on my skin.
They hurt for a fleeting moment, and what’s left is a beautiful scar that takes time to heal. They are carefully bandaged, protected, and softened with moisturizer. Slowly, over time, the old skin flakes off and a new skin is born – this one with a permanent reminder of our victories.
Aren’t we much like tattoos? We were wounded, but others came and helped us heal, protecting us from the elements and reminding us who – and Whose – we are. We end up becoming someone with a new, better, stronger skin – this one with a permanent reminder of what we’ve overcome.
We are beautiful scars, living reminders of the moments that scarred us and the Redeemer that healed the pain.
I think it’s important we don’t forget our struggles. In the moment, it’s hard to see anything but darkness and feel anything but pain. Yet, on the other side of the battle, we emerge victorious and realize just how strong we really are. Pain can grow us if we let it. The challenge is finding the light – grasping onto that flicker of hope amidst the blackest night.
Cling to that hope – the hope and promise that He will redeem your story and make all things new.
Three of my five tattoos are centered around this idea of redemption. The foot tattoo I already mentioned. I got the sparrow tattoo in the midst of one of my lowest and most broken moments, in the midst of my most broken relationship. The anchor tattoo is a reminder that God is my strength, even when the future is filled with the unknown, with a reference to Proverbs 31:25:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”
There is something beautiful about seeing how far we’ve come, don’t you think?