I recall the moment I first saw a woman with a tattoo. Our family was on a vacation at the beach many years ago and a woman my age wearing a mid-drift top (a bad choice, to say the least) came into the same restaurant we were in, walked passed our table, and all four of my young girls and my husband all exclaimed, “Oh my, did you see THAT?” “That” was a huge bright yellow Tweety Bird tattoo that crossed her bare stomach. I quickly realized why she had chosen the shirt she did. I know I made some comment that sounded like this: “Just wait till those stomach muscles turn to flab, Tweety Bird won’t look so cute.”

Fast-forward many years later. My oldest daughter decided to get a tattoo. By this time, tattoos were becoming common. People of all ages, social-economic statuses, religions, etc. were adorning their bodies with ink. What used to be reserved for soldiers and bikers was becoming more common for all. I struggled with her beautiful, flawless body becoming marked with something she may later regret. She chose a beautiful tattoo to be placed on her foot, which had special meaning to her about a mission trip she had been to in Africa.

She showed me the art. I really liked it but must admit that I secretly recalled her little foot when she was born and thought, “Never again will it be flawless.” I was also secretly glad that she chose to mark her foot so that at least it couldn’t be seen most of the time.

I have four daughters and I, like all moms, think my girls are simply beautiful! Perfect! I love them just the way they are. And yet, each one has desired to place tattoos their bodies. This article is not to debate the tattoo issue but rather to share how I’ve come to view the “ink issue.”

Our middle girl has always lived on the edge. She is passionate about her faith and desires to live a radical life for Jesus. I love this about her. So why would I not be surprised that she chose to show this passion by displaying it on her body? At the present time, she has seven tattoos. They all focus on her love for Christ, each one placed very prayerfully and intentionally.

All four girls also got a similar tattoo at the same time, representing their closeness with one another. It is a beautiful gesture that represents one of the deepest prayers of my heart — that my girls would grow up being best friends.

As I’ve struggled through this new way of expressing one’s self, I’ve learned a lot about myself and others through this process.

I’ve learned that there are a lot of well-meaning people who have judged my girls (and others) and have treated them differently because of their tattoos. These God-loving people have forgotten that the issue of their own hearts is more important to the Lord than what’s adorning the skin of others. I’ve encouraged my girls to forgive them and not allow their hearts to grow bitter for it.

Although I will probably never tattoo my skin, I also remember that before my girls started getting tattoos, I also judged others when I had seen their marks. I’ve pictured them as being rough, wild or foolish, or whatever adjective you want to use. I had put them in a separate category. I secretly lowered my respect for them. Sadly, I never once asked them to explain what their tattoos meant to them, or simply honored them despite the art on their skin. And to be honest, now I love this version of self expression, and the talented artists that do beautiful work.

Lastly, I’ve learned that tattoos are one way that a new generation is expressing themselves. If I disqualify them, judge them, or categorize them in my mind, I am separating myself from them. Why would I do that when my heart cries out for unity?

So in summary, maybe ask yourself, if you were as I had once been, judgmental, critical, and offended? Ask God to help you see people from the inside out, not from the outside in. The truth is, there are many people who look really good on the outside but their hearts are bitter, unkind and hateful. And there are many, whose skin is covered with color whose hearts are as pure as snow.

“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” —I Samuel 16:7

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