Last Thursday night I woke up at 2:30 AM with one thought in my head: I need to get a tattoo.
Truth be told, I am a bit of a nerd: My favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life, second is probably Singin’ in the Rain; I stay in some weekends to drink tea and read Jane Austen novels; During the winter, I knit hat and scarf sets; I listen to showtunes and jazz; I asked for a Kitchenaid mixer for my birthday–should I go on? Friends have actually told me that I am a grandmother trapped in the body of a college student. The sad thing is: I’m not offended. Yet despite the fact that I am about as elderly as they come, I have always been fascinated by body art.
I know it has its clichés (butterfly “tramp stamps,” tribal arm bands and the ‘90s boy bands that made them popular and, my personal favorite, the classic thug-life mantra: “only God can judge me” emblazoned on the biceps of at least eight out of ten hardcore rap artists). I’m also aware of the risks. My mom told me, and I quote, “Well, just don’t cry to me when you get Hepatitis from some dirty tattoo parlor.” Still, my mother’s warnings aside, when I think down to the essential idea, I just can’t deny what a spiritual experience the permanent scarring of the body must be.
Still though, in-between episodes of Paula’s Home Cooking on the Food Network, I watch my fair share of Miami Ink–the last thing I had on my mind when I went to bed a week ago was body art.
I like to think I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. When I woke up, I tried my best to just fall back asleep. That didn’t work. I went to plug in my laptop and write a little. Another unsuccessful attempt. I’d left my power cord in one of the dining halls on campus. Finally, after trying to read and go back to sleep, I just gave up. “Ok, Lord. What is it that is so important that you couldn’t wait to talk to me about it until after my alarm went off at 8?”
Deuteronomy came to mind first.
In Deuteronomy 31, God tells Moses to write down the song of the Israelites. The people are at a point in their journey where they are full of joy and adoration for God, He’s about to take them into the Promised Land, and they are very aware of His love and faithfulness. But God knows that once they get to bigger and better things, they will forget Him again, so He asks Moses to make a record of it.
That’s my life right now.
God has carried me through quite a lot of pain in the past four years, but when all is said and done, I can’t deny His faithfulness. I’m at a point right now where everything makes sense, where all I can do is praise Him, seeing His hand in every moment of my life. I’m about to graduate from college and He’s promising me big things for the next year. I’m excited to walk in a new direction with Him.
But I also know that the world is alluring, that temporal pleasures will always pull me away from the richness of joy that is in Christ.
So I decided to write down my song.
Pleroma: the Greek word that Paul uses in Ephesians 3:19 to describe the “fullness” of life in Christ. “That they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (TNIV). In the loop of the “P” I want the Hebrew word for love written, to remind myself that God’s fullness inspires us to love. The Greek and the Hebrew together show the fullness of the Bible, as the Old and the New Testament come together to the praise of God’s greatness. It will be on my hip to remind me that I, like Jacob, once wrestled with God, and though he bruised me, he never let me go. It may hurt like hell, but out of pain came something so beautiful. Isn’t that always the way with God?
I never fell back asleep that night, at 5 am I decided to get dressed and walk to campus for an early breakfast–God had other plans.
As I left my house, I looked up to see the beginnings of the most beautiful sunrise I had ever witnessed. Entranced, I let God lead me up a hill and to a stone wall where I sat and watched the sun’s rays stretch out over the Shenandoah Valley. It was a cool morning, and the chill of the air kept me awake as I marveled over God’s love for me. In a daze, I said to God, “this is what you woke me up for, isn’t it?” He whispered one word back to me, “Pleroma. Fullness in me.”