Friday, October 10, 2014

My Tattoos & Their Messages

I started getting tattoos when I was a sophomore in college. I had learned that Leviticus really didn't apply to the situation since I wasn't involved in pagan worship and since I fully planned on clipping off the edge of my beard at times (although there was a stint in my life where I almost abided by that one). 

All my tattoos are lessons that I have learned and things I want to remember and proclaim to others. I'm slowly becoming a messenger like Ezekiel with object lessons to proclaim my news. This is what I have so far. (Note: I will very poorly try to transliterate the foreign language into english letters)

My first tattoo is on my shoulder and reads "Yahweh agapesen" (Hebrew and Greek) which translates to "God loved." Yahweh is God's covenant name and from what I can tell started being used more heavily around the time when Moses encountered the burning bush. This is why this word and it's derivatives are at times translated as "I AM." The word carries an idea that God is present with His people, as He was in the plagues, in the wilderness, His presence was felt. Agapesen is straight outta John 3:16 and is translated as "He loved." The word though is in a tense that is kinda like looking at a scroll that is time. God loved then, He loves now, and forevermore will love even though we translate it as past tense. So, it says "God loved" but in a Biblical pun that I intended, it also says "I AM Loved." This fact defines much about me. 

My second tattoo was a follow up to my first. It reads "Ahavtee Theon" which translates to "I Love God." Nothing too special about this except for I reversed the Hebrew word for God with the Greek and the Greek word for Love with the Hebrew word. Although in the tattoo, the Hebrew still comes first. This is my reaction to the fact that God loves me. This defines how I react in return to that love. I decided to do this tattoo in negative space, my skin being the words. I did this for aesthetic reasons but also to symbolize that no matter how dark things around me may be, this is something that I want to stand out.  

My third tattoo is essentially the reverse symbol from Uno. Yep, biblical language to a card game symbol. However, it means alot to me. I started learning about Reversal Theory, which is what nerdy Bible peeps came up with to describe the recurring theme of scripture where things get reversed. The first will be last and the last will be first. The blind are made to see. Blessed are the poor in spirit and a number of other undesired traits. Death is victory. I personally went from being dead in my sins to alive in Christ. So, this tattoo is response to the previous two. Because God loved me and because I love Him, I've been reversed by the power of the cross and I now live a reversed lifestyle in an ungodly world. 

Tattoo number four is by far my largest and most symbolic piece. It's a dove made out of guns. Now, obviously that requires some unpacking. I got the idea from art pieces made from weapons that were used during the Mozambique genocide. The country of Mozambique was in civil war for around 15 years if my memory serves me right. Once there was peace though, it was volatile because everybody and their grandma had an AK-47. A Christian group inspired by Isaiah 2:4 (They shall beat their swords into plowshares and will no longer learn of war) came in and sought to disarm the country. In exchange for weapons, they would give the people tools of agriculture. A shovel for a rifle, and so on. One village exchanged a whole cache of weapons for a tractor. The group took the weapons and made art pieces out of them, which are really quite extraordinary. This is where the idea came from. The dove is a symbol of peace in almost every culture. The body of the dove is an apple and the stem of the apple refers to the Tree of Life. The apple itself is an allusion to Eden, when humans tried to "get on God's level" and eat of the fruit. I think we still try to do that when we say who deserves to live and who deserves to die. That is a judgment call that only God is righteous enough to make. There are also three words incorporated into the red of the apple. These words are in their original language and are Eiraynay (Greek), Shalom (Hebrew), and Salaam (Arabic). All three words translate to "peace" and also represent cultures that have not always been peaceful, especially with each other. So, it's a symbolic piece that symbolizes peace.

My most recent tattoo is an armband and an inksplot. The armband consists of 99 shapes and then there is the 1 inksplot. This is an allusion to the parable of the 1 sheep that goes astray and the shepherd cares so much for that sheep that he goes and risks all to find it. It's a reminder to look out for the sheep who's gone astray - the ostracized, the outcast - and the fact that God cares for them deeply. The inksplot is messy, it's not like the others, but it's also redeemed by the blood which it alludes too. 

So there you go. There's the story behind my ink. I share it every chance I get.

I have ideas for more. I really don't know when I'll stop, but for now I keep getting reminders about how to live and I keep being presented with opportunities to share my faith because of the ink on my body.

Stay tuned for more stories.