My hairdresser has 23 tattoos.
“I have recently noticed how many tattoo removal companies are cropping up everywhere,” I said.
“Yes,” she said, “But I would never have mine removed….it leaves a scar.”
As she put tinfoil in my hair and painted it with a color other than the actual dishwater blonde, we talked about tattoo artistry.
She explained that her tattoo work was traditional in nature. Every tattoo was filled with many symbols, each one representing a different part of who she was. Much of her work was centered around her grandparents. Her Grandfather was a World War II vet, who loved God and saw 52 – yes 52! air missions over Germany. One time, when he thought he was facing death, he quoted a passage from the Gospel of John over and over again and was saved.
“What was the scripture?” I asked.
“I can’t remember….it’s on my back.”
I’m reading the new, trendy, religious book, “Pastrix” by Nadia Bolz-Weber. She’s like Anne Lamott only with tattoos instead of dreadlocks. She swears and is edgy and funny. She speaks of a deep faith and her surprise that she would ever be a Lutheran Pastor. The fact that she is a recovering alcoholic, past comedian, was raised in a conservative tradition, that never would acknowledge women in leadership, and the fact that she swears a lot and freely gives her opinion makes her cool compared to those of us who, well, aren’t.
So tattoos have been visiting me this week.
It got me thinking about the idea of being marked. Back in the day, circumcision was the physical act that set people apart from people who weren’t part of God’s chosen people. Paul had a lot to say about that. He argued that circumcision wasn’t the ticket to salvation. Rather, it was all those who were baptized in the Spirit, not in the flesh. Baptism became the mark.
Here’s the thing. I have tattoos all over me. You just can’t see them. They tell the story of birth and death, of joy and heartbreak, of suffering and hope. And if you tried to scrub them off, they would leave a scar.
I think we all walk around with invisible tattoos that tell our stories, that reveal our true selves. Some of them are ugly and some of them are beautiful. But all of us are really walking, pieces of art, tatted up with our stories.
My biggest tattoo starts at my head and swirls around and around like a water-fall. It showers me. It says, “I have called you by name, and you are mine.”