When I turned 18, I did what every normal 18 year old did. I got inked! My parents, especially my mom, were less than thrilled. They tried to talk me out of it again and again, but I was 18! It was my God given (or at least American given) right to get a tattoo! And so, despite my conservative heritage, I sat in a chair for 3 hours as a tiny needle went into my arm thousands of times. I love America. They protect children from being tortured and allow stupid 18 year olds to "live and learn." Do I regret it? Never.
Several months before my 18th birthday, I came up with the concept for my tattoo. I decided that I wanted a cross made of twisted up nails with a crown of thorns around the top. I didn't just want a cross though, that would be to plain, I wanted something to explain the significance of the cross. It wasn't until three days before the inking went down that I decided on a verse to put underneath the cross. I don't know how I decided on it, but I blame it on God. This is the verse that is etched on my arm:
John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, that one lay his life down for his friends.
I didn't realize the appropriateness of this verse until I went to prison. Yes, I went to prison. As a visitor, but still.
I was talking with one of the inmates and was asking him about his tattoos. His name was Sean and each tattoo he had told an elaborate story and brought him back to a moment in time. Even though Sean had more tattoos than I could count, each one was significant. I had no idea how I was going to relate to this guy and then I realized I was inked up too! I felt pretty cool. I showed him my tattoo and he admired the clarity for a minute and then he asked me what the verse said. I quoted the verse to him and then God started doing his thing.
"Did you have a friend die or something? Is that why you got that tat?" Sean inquired. I almost said, No, it's just a Bible verse that I got... And then it hit me! Yes! Yes, I did have a friend that died! That's exactly why I got the tattoo.
I went on to explain to Sean how I should have died, but even while I was on bad terms with this guy and deserved to die, He saved me. "Believe it or not," I went on to say, "This man also died for you so that you could live forever. He wants to make your life new, give you purpose and save you from destruction. He wants you to live for Him and not for yourself. And when you do, you will be living the life you were meant to live all along. You don't have to live for yourself anymore! You can live for someone so much greater, God."
I watched as this man sat there and wept. I had just watched him rep 30 pull ups 5 times and do 100 push-ups like he was stretching. But God spoke to Him right there in that moment and was able to break though his tough facade like no one on earth could. He told me that He wanted that relationship and he professed Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Soon after I finished talking with Sean, he went and brought about 10 of his friends over to where I was at. Sean said, "Guys, you got hear what this guy has to say!" They admired my tattoo for a minute and then I was able to present the gospel to all of them. It was a sorrel moment. I was 20 years old and 10 convicts who were locked up for murder were standing around as I talked about a man who was murdered for me. It gives me chills remembering the moment.
I corresponded with Sean for a while and was pleased to learn that he got plugged into a small group of believers in prison. As for the others, only God knows their hearts, but I still pray for them when I think about them. They heard the gospel that day, but it had nothing to do with me.
God used me. All I was was a vessel. All I am is a vessel. Our Father has a relentless love that knows no bounds. He wants to redeem everything and everyone back to Himself and he uses anything and everything to redeem His children, even an impulsive tattoo. What an awesome God we serve.