While checking out at Winn-Dixie a few weeks ago, the man in line behind me started making coarse comments to the cashier about the tattoos on both of her arms. "Why did you go and do THAT? Don't you regret it now? Come on, be honest with yourself. You wish you hadn't gotten them, don't you?" The poor young girl sheepishly said, "Umm, no, sir. These are the names of my children, and no, I don't regret it. I love my children very much." She was obviously very insulted by his words and was almost in tears. I smiled at her and tried to make the awkward moment better by changing the subject, feeling embarrassed for the way this stranger was acting towards someone he didn't even know. I looked back at him, his unshaven face, his overweight belly hanging over hiding his belt, and I was all at once disgusted by him and yet convicted about my own sin.
Convicted, because when I see a tattoo, I cringe, and yes, sadly, I judge. While I don't have any tattoos, my son and my sister do. And while I love my family very much, it makes me uncomfortable when I see these permanent pictures on their beautiful bodies. Even though my son's tattoo is a Bible verse and the Christian fish symbol, it still makes me cringe to see tattoos on ANYONE. Although I can justify those strong feelings with scripture that clearly speaks against defiling our bodies (Lev. 19:28), I realized in that moment in a grocery store checkout line that I was being extremely selective in how I used that scripture to support my own judgmental attitudes.
If our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (they are), and if they belong to God (they do), then isn't eating junk food just as sinful as getting a tattoo? How dare I judge someone for making a choice to permanently mark their bodies, when I enjoy three cups of coffee and a handful of cookies, or chocolate, or other really-bad-for-me foods, every single day. I am also permanently altering the cells of my body, am I not? My defiling may be slower and not immediately noticeable, but I am not treating my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit any more than tattoo gatherers are.
If you're reading this and you have a tattoo, please know God has clearly spoken to my heart and I am learning to judge less and less, and to love more and more.
And please know that I know this is an important message to hear from the One who has my name tattooed on the palms of His own hands.
"See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands." Isaiah 49:16
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