I recently got a tattoo. In fact, I received three tattoos in a single appointment.
Before you start imagining anchors or crosses or pictures of a deceased pet I should tell you the tattoos are no bigger than the dot of a pen. One of these beauties is on my left and right side and one is over my sternum. Their positioning allowed for 10 precision radiation treatments in February aimed at slowing the cancer and relieving some pain. They are in fact a second set of tattoos; the first three were across my pelvis when I had radiation treatments ahead of cancer surgery 9 years ago. The new and old “tats'' will be there until I'm not. I am a marked man.
Tattoos mean different things to different people. For some, they have ancient ancestral roots and are a mark of one's people group. For others they serve as a reminder of an important time or event and still for others they are considered an art form applied to a living canvas. And admittedly, while there is a resurgence of their popularity today there are some who wouldn’t have a tattoo hidden or otherwise; not for a million bucks.
After my recent tattooing (and no offer of a million bucks), I started considering the idea of what it means to be marked for life. There is, I think, something powerful in a permanent marking. It says something about us and something to the world we live in. I think the Apostle Paul would agree. Remember what he said in 2nd Corinthians 3, “Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink but with God’s living Spirit; not chiselled into stone, but carved into human lives…“
At the hand of Jesus, the Spirit is the medium not ink, and His marking says plenty about us. His mark confirms our identity in Him; we are followers of the Way and we are family. By its very presence, our spiritual mark commemorates the moment in time when our world changed, we were transformed and our eternal home was fixed. And, the canvas of our hearts reads clearly not only of a life changed but offers an invitation to others to do the same. There is always room at the table for those who wish to share in the mark that testifies to forgiveness, peace, joy, sacrifice, faith, and the hope of a resurrected life.
There is something else to consider; the inevitability of time. After a point, the ink of a tattoo will begin to lose its vibrancy. Its contrast and colour begin to fade. It is because the body responds to the ink as an interloper of sorts and begins to fight it, trying to rid it like a virus. Interestingly the mark of Jesus is designed to do the exact opposite. It is not an interloper but a friend for life. Through the work of the Spirit, the qualities, gifts, and characteristics of the Christian are designed to thrive and flourish. The closer heaven, the clearer the mark. Yes, you're right the vibrancy of our marking can be altered by sin, inattention, and doubt; we’ve all experienced that. From time immemorial the enemy’s desire has been to fade our identity, our story, our gifts, our hope. We have however learned the power of the cross redeems and its flowing grace brings back the shine.
We are marked women and men and we would be well placed in this moment to thank God we are.