A Tattoo Artist

I have never had a tattoo on my body, although every time we go down to Daytona I tell Audrey that I think it's about time. There are parlors everywhere and "it would be discreet.” I'm not really serious, of course, but...

What I do have are age spots. Brown, oddly shaped markings on my face and chest. They aren't caused by age, actually, but by too many years of very unwise, unprotected sun-bathing.

One of my favorite sermon stories is the one about the time there was an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the life of Martin Luther King. I told it just recently. It was in 1958, at a book-signing in a New York City department store. A crazed woman lunged at him with a steel letter opener with a razor tip, stabbing him in the chest. A skilled surgeon managed to save King's life, but the wound left a scar on his chest in the shape of a cross. Thereafter, so he would say, every time he shaved in the morning he would see that mark and it would remind him of his purpose in life.

Well, the other day when I was shaving, I noticed that one of those age spots on my chest is in the distinct shape of a cross. "No--it's a plus sign," Audrey says.

Well?

Now, every time I look at it I think immediately of Paul's words in Galatians that he only boasted in the cross (6:14) and that he bore on his body the "marks of Jesus" (6:17). The cross is the central act of the gospels. That, and the resurrection from the grave, of course. It is at the very heart and center of what I have preached for fifty years, too. My life's purpose and my only real message.

Several years ago I was on an airplane seated beside a young woman who was covered from head to toe in tattoos. (It's a long story and, if you ask me, I'll gladly tell you the whole thing.) As we talked, I expressed my curiosity about the variously colored markings. She was wearing a low-cut and very short dress, so it was an obvious conversation starter and I wanted to talk with her about Jesus.

"Is there a theme?", I asked.

"Yes," she said. "It's the story of my life."

I made the mistake of asking her to tell me about it. She did--very graphically showing me every one, all over her body. We finally ended up at her shoulder where there was a tattoo of barbed wire and a guard tower. "This is from when I was in prison," she told me --taking the fall for her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend.

I then told her about the LORD, and she listened politely since I had been so polite and non-judgmental when she was giving me the grand tour.

I didn't have my unique age spot then, but if I had I would not have felt at all self-conscious to unbutton my shirt and show her the cross on my chest. We were friends with no secrets by this point in the flight.

"This tells my story,” I would have said.

1 Comment


Nancy von Guggenberg - May 26th, 2020 at 4:10pm

Awesome story.

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