Friday, June 29, 2012

Tattoo Story #2 church, love and brokenness

So there is a large piece on my back that had very humble beginnings.  My intentions were for this piece to honor my family and that other member of my family that raised me along with my parents, the church. It was meant to represent the story of my family and faith, my commitment to the people God has given me and called me to through brokenness and beauty. The tattoo itself and the process of getting it, taught this church nerd, a lot. As I work on the message I will be giving Sunday on the sixth anniversary of serving my current church family, my brain keeps taking me back to that tattoo and my experience of getting it.

It started as a cheesy little sacred heart with a green "Gumby" cross, ten years after getting it, it was faded and embarrassing. It didn't reflect the beauty of the commitment and love I have with Valentine, and with God, like it was supposed to.  I didn't want to cover it though, it was a part of me, I wanted to add to it.  I wanted to add my kids in some way, because they grew out of those original commitments. I also wanted to add the church, because in adding the church I was honoring my parents who raised me there, and the family of God I had been raised in and called to serve. One of my favorite things about churches has always been the stained glass.  The church is a beautiful thing, but it is also broken, because although it comes from Jesus, we messy people are carrying it forward. There is pain, there is quarrel, but there is also healing and comfort, and love.  All those jagged pieces fit together to make something amazing, like stained glass.  I wanted to see this little tattoo transformed, but I had no idea where to go.

One night while out on a family walk around the neighborhood, we passed by a tattoo shop and some of the artists and piercers were outside, and they welcomed us to the shop.  We were just passing by, and paused, surprised because we had never noticed it before, and they were really nice, introduced themselves and told us to come by sometime. They didn't hand us a coupon, or try to sign us up and sell us something, or make fun of the silly tattoos we already had, or treat us like we weren't as cool as they were, all of which I would have been nervous about had we walked in on our own.  It was casual and open, and just nice.  Do you see where I am going with this? It was a bit like I would hope people feel when they happen upon our church.  The welcome I want people to receive, that feeling that it's okay if you haven't been in a while, or you have never been, you are welcome.

Later I went in and handed the artist an idea, and I was given back a masterpiece. He showed me a sketch and it was nothing like I had pictured, but it was everything I wanted. Then we started the process of putting it on my skin.  It was supposed to take three hours, but the first sitting ended up taking six and a half.  Once he started working, it just took more time, as he poured more of his artistry into it.  It wasn't easy.  I equate tattooing with scraping a sunburn, and the parts on top of the bone, well those vibrate with pain, but somehow I sat through it.  I went through more than i thought I could handle, and when my body started shaking and could handle no more we stopped. Along the way, through the pain, we had fun.  A friendship was forged, and an amazing work of art was born.  He took my little idea and worked into something amazing for everyone to share in when they see it.

When we are part of the family of God, we contribute our idea, our talent, our knowledge; we hand it over to the master artist, and with the whole body (see my last post if this imagery is lost on you), we allow God to shape it into something amazing to share with the world.  We let God work through us, as broken as we are, and we change the world around us, we continue the work of bringing heaven to earth. Well, when we are at our best we do.  Sometimes we are in the process of breaking down and we need renewal, or sometimes we are fading and in need of a touch up.  We are always a work in progress and we will always be broken.  My favorite part of this tattoo, is the cracks in the brick border.

This tattoo led to many more of my tattoo ideas being turned into amazing realities at that same shop.  In the hours I have spent there, I have always seen the people that work there treat people with the utmost respect, and I have seen some crazy people come in there. Each one is treated as a valued customer, worthy of service, no matter what the service asked for.  They won't make fun of you until they really get to know you, until you are part of the extended family.  They will listen to your ideas, and they will help you make the changes you want to make, so that you feel better about who you are.  I have seen them refuse people's requests only when their safety was at risk.  I hope that when people come to my church, they have the same experience.  I hope that when people visit, they are inspired, to continue to allow God to change them, to help them be the amazing people God created them to be, and to work through them to change the world.  I hope that if they enter embarrassed, they leave knowing that they are beautiful creations of God and he is doing restoring works in them, and empowering them to do big things.  I hope those things are happening, and I am committed to work on making that a reality.

Stained glass addition work done by Michael Facchini
at Blackhole Tattoo (West) in Beaverton,OR
This tattoo reminds me of what church is and what it can be, and it inspires me to be it and bring it.  Be a follower of Jesus and an active part of the work he has started here and bring the kingdom of heaven down to earth, and that, not my tattoos, is what I will be talking about Sunday.

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