Written by: Erin Pearson
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I found myself staring as the TV in the waiting room as it played a mute version of Spongebob, trying not to think about why I was there. I met the eyes of those around me, some who smiled kindly and others who wrestled with small squirming bundles of tired whimpers.
My appointment time slid by and I tried to occupy my time with positive thoughts, but it was inevitable. My mind wandered back to the lumps that had brought me to the door of the breast surgeon. I was 29, I was just getting back on my feet after being laid off. I had an awesome job, my family was all healthy, and we had started to feel comfortable again. I kept holding back the fearful tears, I wouldn’t let whatever came next scare me. I could do anything because God was with me.
I was startled when I heard my name called by the nurse with kind eyes and a sympathetic smile. She could see my fear, and she felt sorry for me.
I could tell.
Deep breath, I told myself, we can conquer this too.
After the weight and the height and the initial history of when I first noticed the lumps, I was again left alone with my thoughts while I undressed and stepped into the examination gown. I didn’t think it would affect me, but the last time I was in a gown like these, I was in labor with my twin sons at 26 weeks. I felt my petrified fear once again, it blew me over and 6 years ago came rushing back to me. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I sat and shivered in the gown on the exam table, and I prayed quietly by myself.
A small knock brought me back to present day, and the doctor of slight form filed in with his nurse in tow. I recounted my story once again, and trying not to shiver, I prepared myself for the exam. He couldn’t help but see the tattoo on my foot, and his initial reaction was one I had seen often before; disgust and disappointment. But I could tell that he wanted to make me at ease, so he asked me politely, “What is that on your foot?” This was also a frequent question, and not because the artist did not do an excellent likeness of the piece I had requested, but because I needed an easy way to start a sometimes difficult conversation.
“It’s a cross,” I said. “It means Jesus guides my feet.”
At this point I didn’t know his background, I had no idea if he was Christian or not. But first and foremost, it was my declaration. I feel the hardest part of being Christian is sharing it with others. Typically I get a standard “Oh, that’s nice,” or some such knee jerk response, without genuine feeling, but not this day.
“Now,” he said, “that’s impressive. I’ve never heard that. It’s nice.” He stumbled with his words slightly apparently taken aback by my guiltless admission. Here, I had never been before, a fork; continue with my witnessing, or stop and let the quiet win.
I think we all know what I chose.
I showed him my wrist.
Therefore let no man harm me for I bear on my body the mark of Christ.
“But the Bible says not to tattoo your body. It is your temple.”
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. 1 Corinthians 6:19
True statements, and I was encouraged that he continued the conversation with me.
It was a reflex, and I recited “In Leviticus it says not to tattoo yourself in mourning for the dead.”
I could see that I had touched on a fire that he had stoked before, and he shot right back, “but your foot, Jesus died.”
“Yes,” was my reply, “but I do not mourn him. It is a celebration.”
A smile came across his face and somehow my shaking had stopped, as did the uncontrollable urge to cry. After the initial exam was done, we had a little more time to talk. Turns out my doctor was raised in a Jesuit school, and knew scripture like the back of his unshaking hand. He promised me he would get back to his bible, especially the verse in Leviticus, but that he was reassured that he and I could talk freely about our faith. He had recently suffered through a divorce where the woman he loved left him for another, and he finally came back to the faith that he had strayed from. He talked to me about how his family didn’t understand and that he knew that he had to give them time to adjust to his more fervent roots coming forward.
This day did not start out to be a reassuring experience. I was scared, nervous and angry. And yet, being able to share my faith with someone made me able to face the day again. And it was all started with the sight of my tattoo.
When I receive those looks from people that don’t understand, those who can’t read past the ink under my skin to be able to interpret the words that are just as stark the lines on a page, I know that I can still reach others who are willing to look deeper.
Other people have asked me, “Why do you do that to yourself?” and I can answer them easily now.
I tell them, Jesus died for me. The least I can do is bear a little pain to be able to spread his name to others that need him. It’s how I know to talk to the generation around me, the ones who look to me for a reason to continue on a straight and narrow path in a society of shortcuts.
I have a tattoo kind of faith.