Letting the Ink Speak for Itself

I have four tattoos. Two are related to my family and two are related to my faith. Both faith related tats are in foreign languages: Thai and Khmer. They have become conversation starters – primarily with other people who have ink, but not necessarily always so. Let me relate a story from today that demonstrates why I chose to place my tattoos where they are.

Thai Tat

I currently work in a shop where we sometimes do interior upholstery work. Our focus is primarily marine related, but we do the occasional indoor furniture piece as well. I was standing at my counter where I greet customers when a white SUV pulled into the parking lot. There was a handicap tag hanging from the rearview mirror and a Vietnam Veteran license plate on the front bumper. The couple, clearly in their mid-60’s, got out, bringing a small chair into the shop.  I made my way around the counter and began a conversation about their piece. The man had several tattoos on his leg (he was wearing shorts) and arms. His belt proudly proclaimed his US Navy service. She had a husky voice and fiddled with a cigarette lighter in her left hand.

As we were wrapping up our initial discussion about the chair, I rested my right hand on the chair’s back. This exposed my forearm to the couple. The lady pointed at my Thai tat and asked what it said. I shared with her that it is a phrase found in Isaiah 42:7, speaking of Christ, it reveals how he brings the prisoners out of the dark dungeons and prisons they find themselves in. She looked inquisitively at me as I shared the verse with her. I explained, briefly, that I decided on the ink before we headed to Southeast Asia to participate in aiding young girls find freedom from exploitative situations. They both remarked that they thought that was “cool”.

She then shared that she “loved Isaiah”. I asked her what passage meant something to her. Without hesitation she replied, “Isaiah 41:10”. Now, call this a coincidence, but I really don’t think it is: last night we were watching the new “Holy Ghost” movie produced by Darren Wilson, and I recall the reference of Isaiah 41:10 coming up on the screen. I, however, couldn’t recall what the verse said. So I asked her. If you’ve ever shared a bible reference with someone, and had them ask you what it said, you can appreciate how easy it is to draw a blank when remembering what the text actually says. She fumbled just for a second, and then she quoted,

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isa 41:10 NLT)

And there, in the middle of a shop focused on upholstery, we focused on uplifting the name of Jesus. These past five weeks at our church, Mission Point Community Church, we have been focusing on “Inviting everyone everywhere to life in Christ”. We’ve been encouraged to find a way to share Christ in our natural pathways of life, among those whom we naturally interact with. In the past three weeks I’ve had four of these type interactions as a result of the ink I have on my forearm and wrist. I don’t think everyone needs a tattoo to share Christ or to talk about what He’s doing in their life. But we all ought to be willing and ready to speak about his goodness to us.

I am praying that God will make me more bold – praying that I will hear the Spirit’s voice more clearly and that I will react more quickly to it. Sometimes I’ll initiate that conversation, other times I let the ink speak for itself.

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