Tattooed people must be passionate people. A few weeks ago I wrote this article about the meaning in my own tattoo—three small blue stars. I received quite a response from people who also found meaning in their permanent inkings. Here are some of them:
Ownership in writing
My story begins when I was 16 years old and thought it would be cool to get a tattoo. In discussing it with my parents they frowned on the idea and believed that getting a tattoo was wrong. Their basis for this was Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” Without getting into a theological discussion about the application of Jewish Old Testament Law to us today, let’s just say I felt compelled to follow my parents’ wishes, and my reasoning for wanting one—i.e. because it would be cool—wasn’t really a good reason to permanently ink my body.
Fast forward to the next year when I went to a Newsboys concert and met the bass player Phil Joel. I noticed some writing on his left ring finger and when I asked about it he said he had his wife’s name tattooed there. This tattoo peaked my interest once again in getting a tattoo. Through much thought and pray, I decided that I would one day get my wife’s name tattooed on my left ring finger. I just hoped my wife’s name wouldn’t be too long. I would get the tattoo as a symbol of the permanency of my love and commitment to my wife. A ring I can take off, but a tattoo does not go away.
As I progressed in years a second idea began to grow in my mind.During personal time spent with God in the book of Revelation (2:4 specifically) I was reminded that God was to be my first love, over everything else in life. From this I developed the following logic: If I was to get my wife’s name tattooed on my left ring finger as a symbol of my love and commitment to her, who will be my second love, then should I not be willing to do the same for my first love, God? So I decided that I would get a tattoo of the name of my first love on my right ring finger.
There are many names of God to choose from, but while taking a Jewish History class in college I was very fascinated by the reverence the Jews had for the name of God that was given to Moses, the name we refer to as Yahweh or I AM. In the Judaism this name of God is surrounded by such power and reverence that if it is written on paper, it is not to be erased, defaced or destroyed. I decided I would get this name God as my tattoo.
I would get the name that He gives to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’” The name that expressed God’s character as dependable and faithful, and the name Jesus applied to Himself in the New Testament (John 8:58-59) to express the eternity of His being and His oneness with the Father.
In Hebrew the name is represented by the Hebrew letters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh, and often shortened to YHVH. Instead of getting the actual Hebrew letters, which looks more like symbols to us, I wanted to get the English equivalents YHVH. I wanted this tattoo as a reminder of Gods eternal qualities and of His ownership of me. It would be like when you etch your name on your tools so that everyone knows who owns the tool. I am a tool in the hands of my Lord, and this would be a symbol to all of who owns me.
As for my parents’ issue with tattoos, they were not thrilled even though my tattoos had spiritual foundations. This was until my father read Isaiah 44:5, “One will say, I belong to the Lord; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, The Lords, and will take the name Israel.”
I finally got the tattoo of YHVH on my right ring finger in November 2004 at the age of 23. A month later I got my wife’s name, Sarah, tattooed on my left ring finger. Both tattoos are meaningful to me and serve as personal reminders of my first and second loves.
– Aj Bianchi
A testimony of change
One of my tattoos is my testimony opener because so many people say, "I like your tattoo" (a butterfly resting on my foot). That allows me to tell them it’s cover up of what was the goddess in the moon as I was studying Wicca before I returned to the Lord in college. It always gives people the impression of "Wow, you’re not like other Christians I’ve met." It is a wonderful thing for me.
– Elaine Baziotis
“Becoming all things to all men”
I grew up in an extremely conservative (maybe fundamentalist) church. The people truly loved God but, I believe, struggled with how to show that love to others. They were so afraid of being “tainted” by the world that they just shut themselves off from it. Being from a holiness denomination (Wesleyan) things like tattoos, beer, movies and even Yahtzee (you know, dice) were all taboo. I love my denomination, and I’m thrilled that they (we) are starting to “grow up” and are moving towards a relevant expression of the love of Christ for our world. We haven’t got it all figured out but we’re trying.
I’m now a pastor in the Wesleyan Church and the move towards relevance is exciting to me. That’s what my tattoo is about. Like I said, I’m not much of a tattoo person, but I got a tattoo last fall after several years of thinking about it. It’s a cross interwoven with a circle in a sort of Celtic knot-work style. It’s significant to me because I am daily amazed by the Cross of Christ. To think that he willingly chose to die upon the cross for an evil-hearted Pharisee like me blows me away. And every day I try to keep the cross before me so that I keep moving away from what I was and towards what I am in Christ. I went with the Celtic circle/knot work because of St. Patrick. He is a wonderful role model to me of our need to make the saving message of the cross relevant and meaningful to the indigenous people of our ministry field.
By embracing local culture and redeeming it with the power of the cross we begin to build a community of Christ-followers. I want to have a passion for the people I live with and a willingness to do whatever it takes to love them as Christ did so that the cross will have power and meaning in their lives as well. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (I Corinthians 9:22)