Tattoo You

I’m attracted to memes because I love words. Words are more than letters in sequence. They transform lives. I hope I’m not telling you anything new.

My favorite conversation starter is to ask people to come up with at least three individual words that describe how they want to feel. Another is to ask what their theme is for the year. These are words, when meditated upon regularly, can shape who we become.

I have a friend who does not have any tattoos. And I wondered if she’d ever get one. She asked me what my favorite band was 20 years ago. Or what my favorite picture was 20 years ago. Or my favorite anything was 20 years ago. And then said something like, “There is nothing I loved 20 years ago, that I love so much now.” Point taken.

We all change. What I thought was beautiful or funny or entertaining 20 years ago, may seem even repulsive to me now. (I can think of more than a few!)  So embedding even the most eloquent words and images on my skin could be detrimental to my life. I mean that literally.

On the other hand. We have potential to change in any direction. My mind has seen some very, very dark times. My heart has been crushed. But by the grace of God, I have chosen to overcome. And, oddly enough, one of the key reasons I stand tall is because of the tattoo on my left shoulder that reads “Relentless Forward Progress”  woven inside a tree, with the scripture address 2 Tim 1:7 at the root. I tease that I’ll never give up because I can’t see a day when chopping off my arm is the better option.

In a magazine, I saw a picture of a prison gang member’s face covered in tattoos. He has thick, black painted circles around each eye with drips of ink running into his cheek bones . The words “skin head” and “sinner” across is forehead. Lines running from his lips. And the rest of his face and neck covered in ink that probably has meaning to him; pictures he would use words to explain. This is a man. A human, whose image is so unsetting it was difficult for me to look at to write this paragraph..

I’m not comparing the challenges he might have faced as a young man to mine. Overcoming the cards he was dealt was obviously more than he could handle. He made the choice to hear words, and then act on those words, literally permanently implanting them in his blood… sealing his fate.

It’s the side of the story I want to talk about because there is too much at stake. I have come to know there are too many people who need what you and I have to offer: our God-given talents and gifts and wisdom. There is too much potential for our particular kind of impact on this planet. And our success is as simple as the words we choose to connect with. It is as simple as permanently embedding the kind of thoughts into our blood that bring life and love.

May you string words together that literally lift up your head, shift back your shoulders, and stretch out your arms. May your words build. May your words leave a room better than when you entered. May your words blaze light, and burn passion out into people. And may people hear you and love you into more and better.