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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Touched by God's Tattoo

girl with the word joy tattoo on her forearm
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Waiting in line to check out at a grocery store recently, I noticed a skull and crossbones tattoo on the upper left arm of the man in front of me. His tattoo reminded me of when my oldest brother came home on furlough from the navy with a tattoo of a hula girl on his upper left arm. I was 12-years-old and I asked him why he got that thing anyway. He laughingly said, “Every time I flex my biceps, I remember how much I miss Hawaii.”

Since I’ve always been interested in the reason an individual gets a tattoo, I asked the man about his. He pointed to the skull and crossbones and said, “This identified me with my gang when I was in prison.” He snickered a little and added, “I’ll always ’member my behind-bars buddies.”

A biker behind me pulled up his T-shirt to show a rose tattooed on his chest. “It was my old lady’s favorite flower,” he said. He got quiet, rubbed over the rose, and slightly mumbled, “She’s dead now, but I’ll never forget her.”

Listening nearby, an elderly gentleman began rubbing the number tattooed on his arm and said, “I won’t forget Auschwitz.”

“Grandpa,” his grandson asked, “Do you want to forget?”

“Never! And I want your generation to remember also.”

The prophet Isaiah probably had the same idea when he wrote:

“... I [God] will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; ...” (Isaiah 49:15, 16a NIV)

According to John MacArthur, he was alluding to the Jewish custom, possibly drawn from Exodus 13:9, of puncturing their hands with a symbol of their city and temple to reassure Israel that God had promised never to forget his people.

Tattooing is becoming more prevalent in our American culture. A 2015 study reported that about 36% of Americans ages 18-29 have at least one tattoo, and they enjoy talking about them.

Last week, I was being helped at a pharmacy by a young lady who had tattoos running from her right shoulder down to her fingertips. I commented, “You sure must like tattoos.”

She replied, “My tattoos remind me of who I am.”

A man behind me said, “I’m into tattooing myself. I’m a father. See this heart with two names in it,” pointing to the top of his right hand. “Every time I look at that heart, it reminds me how much I love my twin boys.”

A young man in line chimed in, “I’ve got ’em all over my body. I get a tattoo every time there’s a new thing to remember.”

Remember — that’s the word these tattoos are painted around. All of these individuals want visual reminders.

When I see these tattoos that are making all kinds of statements, I am reminded that God’s tattoo is also making a statement: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands so that I will never forget you.” God remembers all the names of the stars he’s created, and he’s reassuring us that he remembers all of our names by reminding us where our names are ... in the palms of his hands.

God remembers that we belong to him, he remembers to protect and provide for us, and when we have a need, he remembers to guide us. And also, painful as it may be, when we need correction, he remembers to discipline us.

When the Lord just wants to express his love and devotion to us, his omnipotent hands reach down from heaven and embrace us. We feel him holding us close and then hear him so softly whisper, “See, I have tattooed you on the palms of my hands.”

Copyright © D. Leon Pippin, used with permission.

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