On a summer afternoon, when I was 21, I went to a walk-up tattoo shop on 17th Ave in Calgary. On a whim, I picked out a little red maple leaf, surrounded by the words “Made in Canada” and an hour later, I walked out with my then-nationalism inked on my hip.
I was so sure I would never regret it but I have to admit (yes, Mum and Dad, you knew that this day would come…) that with my views on nationalism and pacifism these days, it gives me twinges of regret, my 21-year-old self full of youthful national pride which my 34-year-old self now eschews in favour of a greater Kingdom. It’s “cute” and if there is one thing I don’t want to be, it’s that – so dismissive and condescending for anyone older than a toddler – so I’m twice as glad now that I put it somewhere underneath my clothes away from eyes and chuckles.
But now I want a purple Scottish thistle and a stalk of wheat entwined on my back for my beautiful roots deep in the land, a bright dogwood for my faith in the risen Christ, I want the names of my tinies and my beloved in my own handwriting on the palms of my hands (see? I will say, I have you carved in the palms of my hands, how could you forget/doubt/not understand how I love you always?) I want the silhouette of a sparse mountain pine tree on my ribs, I want the words love is enough on my wrists and beloved on my feet.
I have filled my house with words and it never feels like enough. I want to scrawl whole passages of books on the stairway walls, scripture on the fireplace, psalms on the cupboards, epic poems on the east wall, quotes on pumpkins, rules on the stairs, wear out a pack of Sharpies on the backs of the doors, just writing the truth that I know while I know it still for someday.
But just one more tattoo has been added to my skin. It’s likely the last tattoo.
On a summer afternoon, in my mid-thirties now, I went to a small suburban tattoo shop, next to a grocery store, in Abbotsford. I had carefully researched and selected a deeply symbolic tattoo I wanted, a small dove, and I walked back out with it inked on my slim white wrist for my higher allegiance.
This little dove is for peace, for my search for peace, for my peace-making heart, for the peace that Jesus gives, for my committment to peace and wholeness in my own life, and in the world God created, and called good.
It’s for the Holy Spirit, for my reliance on living a spirit-filled life, for my reliance on the breath of God, the infilling, it’s even for my tongue-talking mysticism.
It’s for a fearless life. It’s for the soaring truth that love wins, and perfect love casts out fear, and I will spread my small wings a bit further, lean a little further into the wind, take flight even, perhaps.
And it’s for motherhood, for how these tinies have given me a new birth, a reinvention, a whole new life, and I carry them now, tattooed on my skin.
An inch of my blue-veined skin to mark my new beginnings, I want to carry these things forward into the days ahead, I’ve been changed by it all.
This little dove faces out at the world: on purpose.
A combination of two posts from the archives as part of the Deeper Story synchroblog about how our tattoos embody part of our story.