Some of you may need to sit down for this… others are probably uncontrollably standing up after reading the title (…in shock? …excitement? …disbelief?). I’d like to share with you a bit of the story. I am not going to give time to any arguments around whether it is right or wrong for a believer in Christ to be tattooed. Honestly, this has been dealt with and answered and doesn’t need to be rehashed by me today.
I have loved tattoo art for many years. Lori and I have been tattoo art fans for a long time. During my doctoral graduation in California in 2010 I remember us going by one of our favorite tattoo artist’s shop in Hollywood trying to grab a peek inside. We walked around the shop and took a picture of it like a couple of little kids at a theme park.
I finally came to a place where I knew it was time to take the plunge. There are a lot of factors that pushed me forward but I honestly think one of the biggest was reaching the 10-year mark in my journey at Crossings Community. These years have changed me in countless ways… ways too numerous to adequately articulate.
I had been pretty sure of the specific tattoo I wanted for a long time and it just continued to make more sense to me. I love Asian art and culture. I have since I was a child. I grew up deeply involved in Martial Arts and have continued at various depths through adulthood. This has continued to foster a love and appreciation for the depth of culture and art originating there. So, naturally I found an affinity for the traditional Japanese tattoo art that I found.
The Asian culture carries many legends as it is one of the oldest cultures in the world. One of those legends is that of the koi fish. The koi begins its place in recorded history when one was given as a gift to Confucius around 500 BC. From there it found significance and ink time amidst the tomes of history and legend.
Legend has it that a school of koi swam up the Yellow River in China. Yes, up the river – against the current. As they swam they got stronger and continued to fight against the current and began to overcome the rapids along the river. However, the Yellow River has a waterfall and when the school reached the waterfall, many of them turned back because it became too difficult to continue.
Some of them remained and the story has it that they continued trying to reach to the top for 100 years. The legend says that one koi reached the top of the waterfall and upon reaching the pinnacle it was transformed into a beautiful golden dragon.
This legend reminds me of one of my favorite books written by Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Peterson paints the picture of the Christian life as a continuous commitment to fight everyday upstream against the current of the opposing world in order to be called faithful.
Whether I am reflecting on my life as a pastor and church planter, father, friend, or husband, I see my journey as a long obedience in the same direction at which I will find a day that the Apostle Paul calls “glorification.” This piece of art that I wear is my “stone of remembrance” (Joshua 4) which constantly keeps before my eyes the sustenance, provision, endurance, and faithfulness a God who carries me and will continue all of my days.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30 ESV)