Half Priced Tattoos

Kids make ridiculous choices. I know there's something about the decision area of the brain not fully forming until age 25 or something and perhaps we ought to have a little more patience but it's pretty frustrating when you've said, "No", "Never", "Not under my roof", etc. Some stuff our kids do is no big deal and some of it makes us stare at the ceiling at night asking God when is it going to stop.

I was a pretty good kid. My mom describes me as compliant. The truth is, I observed my older sibling and friends and learned how to do the same things just more discreetly. I'm not proud of this and I thank Jesus for coming into my life and forgiving me and making my life beautiful after I tried my best to mar it up. One of my really stupid mistakes was a tattoo.

What made my tattoo decision so easy is that I was walking around with a brand new credit card when the opportunity presented itself. When I was in college, credit card companies set up tables in the student union and gave silly 19 year olds high credit limits and free water bottles. I had ventured to the tattoo parlor a few times with friends and thought this would be the very thing to prove that I was an independent thinker, different from my very conservative parents and cool enough to hang out with the rougher group of college friends. So I made my way down the mountain to the tattoo shop and there I saw what I was sure was a sign that this was a good decision. The half-price wall.

Yes, this shop which catered to the nearby college town, had half priced tattoos. I very wisely turned down any of the cartoon tattoos, I mean how sexy is Garfield or Snoopy? I settled in on a lovely little dolphin jumping through a half moon because of my life-long love and dedication to dolphins. No, not because of that. Because it was the only thing that wasn't dark, disrespectful, or cartoonish. Now, where to put it. Still having a very healthy fear of my parents who were funding my college education, I chose the ever popular lower back. This would be what many like to call the "tramp stamp" location. Easily covered up but easily accessible to share with the right jeans...ugh - really? Let me say, I love tattoos and I admire many of my friends' body art but this was all so wrong. If you know me none of this matches up with my personality at all.

So here I am over 20+ years later with a faded "tramp stamp" of an aquatic mammal on my back. I've had to explain it to my kids and deal with the jeers of my mom friends when it peeks out from my waistband. It's pretty amusing really and I'm thankful I didn't charge my way into a much larger design that would be harder to hide.

Where am I going with all this? How do I turn this into some spiritual lesson? It's not like I really harmed myself or anyone else. That credit card got charged up with plenty of other questionable purchases and was paid off way too late. What I realized today as I listened to the story of David and Bathsheba this morning is that we all make really stupid decisions and seek cheap thrills and think we can cover up. Now, David's mistake wasn't as benign as a tattoo, he slept with another man's wife and then decided to have that man killed so he couldn't find out. The results were not just the death of Bathsheba's husband, but the baby David and Bathsheba conceived also died. David was not the only one who had to pay for the one night stand. David then spent a long time mourning his own dignity, the baby he conceived and the mess that he made. The man after God's own heart had grieved God's heart. Thankfully, the merciful and gracious God that we worship forgave David, restored him and continued to use him for kingdom purposes.

I'm sure I grieved my mom's heart when she finally discovered my tattoo. It wasn't quite what she expected of me and she hated seeing my body permanently changed. The thing is, she didn't yell at me. She just looked at it and said, "Did it hurt?" I told her that it didn't hurt that badly...and that was it. She didn't shame me or tell me how stupid it was or anything. I think she knew revealing my bad choice was painful enough, there was no need to pile on. I'm thankful for my mom's mercy and I'm thankful for God's mercies. I'm now a mom of teens and hope and pray they don't purchase half priced tattoos or sell themselves out for people or a life that doesn't deserve them. I pray that when they do reveal their mistakes that I am as merciful and understanding as my mom and my Heavenly Father.