#45 Speaking Hope One Tattoo At A Time

 Photo by Lang Thomas Photography

A burst of hope running through each human’s genetics was how he recognized God. Something you just gotta find. And there was one day followed by a thousand wondering cerebral flashes that drew him into Christ.

“If it had been a movie and you’d have taken a still frame, it would have looked so creepy,” he said, rediscovering a past life as he spoke.

In an elongated, scraping instant, skidding down a sidewalk, the car finally flipped. He smashed into a fence at the edge of a decay-ridden cemetery. Trees were bare of foliage. Perforated leaves, unreal and flimsy, were wandering around edges of shadow. It was black-ink dark.

“Please, God. Don’t let me die.”

This was the strange, life-giving, incoherent second when God became. And, for a moment, there was someone who might be compassionate enough to care and powerful enough to save. But his body was unconscious in the center of absence—graves and tentacle-like trees surrounded. There was, somehow, less than nothing. Land absent of life, prosperous with death.

A car passed like a revelation. Someone saw. Someone came.

For months, from within his own depths, the Father began to appear, not as a confusion or a blur. Real. Alive-making.

God emerged from a triggered question: “Why would I think to pray?” Imploring a God he’d never heard of? A petition from no knowledge? In his mind, church was a place of irrelevance and God was even less existent, less than nothing.

It was Monday night youth group he chose to try, because it wasn’t anything like that kind of stereotypical church-for-nerds. His Marilyn Manson T-shirts weren’t snubbed, and the other youth were attracted to his unknowing transparency. Not terribly long after, he committed to Christ in the only kind of sold-out way offered—baptism.

Slamming through his self was finally life! Not just lack of death but a kind of erupting and drumming Freedom. It caused his soul to breathe. It connected him to a fellowship of connective people. Church. He had to be part of it. He needed it like some sort of nourishing drug. But he didn’t burrow into it.

He began to apprentice at a tattoo shop. The guy in charge of the place liked his designs and asked for more. An inside-the-chest battle began. He needed to pay the bills. He didn’t need to get into everything that tattoo parlors bring. And he did everything but ink. It clawed at his existence: divergence between an occupation bizarre for ordinary Christians and looming costs of life.

A tattoo artist? He didn’t grow up wanting to be one. He lived in a turbulent home. In one slow moment of his childhood, he became the man of the house and had to visit his dad in prison only one Saturday each month. Through it all, though, he’d always been full of the calm of artful design.

And now he began to see God in deficiency. It was like negative space drew the outline of a Savior. His best connection to Him was through lack—seeing the absence of God in humans. Understanding their Fatherlessness made him aware of his Father-fullness. Including millions of people who lived with less than nothing—the absence of God—the tattoo shop was where he was supposed to carry out a calling. To him, the presence of God was made clear in this place of real people.

“I feel more comfortable around people who have no concept of Jesus—other-side-of-the-tracks people.” The kind of people who are so disconnected from God they are surprised to meet a Christian. Christians are, to them, a tiny, forsaken minority—if they exist at all. And if they exist they aren’t the kind of people who believe in the dude called Jesus or a Father who asks for everything.

But because of his own giant, faithful, whole-body tattoos and his straight-edge lifestyle, the ones getting their mark ask him about it all. And sometimes that burst of Divine hits them and they realize they can talk to God even if they are some crazy criminals.

This guy doesn’t look for and find the people who have a grudge against God; they come to him—every day. They feel annulled from church or unknown altogether. Not wanting to know because of no knowledge, they are void of God and no one talks to them about real Hope.

But, through him, one tattoo at a time, God does.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

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