So. I have a tattoo.
One year ago I climbed a steep set of stairs, sat down in a black chair, and held my leg incredibly still as a stranger marked me with permanent ink.
It was the day after April Fool’s and the day before Good Friday, somewhere in between laughter and darkness, and that just figures because of what my tattoo means.
I didn’t plan it all out, but I did plan to keep it quiet. The truth is, I’ve wanted a tattoo for years but what I wanted and where I wanted it changed about every six months. Until I landed on this phrase, these four little words, and I just knew.
If you’re wondering if it hurts as bad as they say it does, the answer is no. (I mean, ohmygosh it hurts so dang much. You’ll probably have to bite your lip to keep from saying a few choice words. But if you tell yourself it will feel like death, it actually won’t and then you’ll make it through. At least that’s what worked for me.)
(It also helps if your friend holds your hand and makes up a story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears getting tattoos, which might lead you to make a weird face that gets captured on camera. This is an image of me thinking “what in the actual world are you saying right now.”)
If you’re wondering why I kept it a secret for one year, allow me to share the first few lines of chapter seven of Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between… (you can bet your bottom dollar I was shocked when God prompted me to write all about the tattoo in my book long before sharing it anywhere online):
Of everyone in my friend group growing up and even all the way through high school, I was hands down the last person anyone would predict to go out and get a tattoo.
But I did.
Those three words right there will shock the pants off many of my real-life people reading these words because I didn’t exactly make it known or go and tell the world. I didn’t snap a picture and add a filter before posting or tweeting. I didn’t make an announcement or write a blog post or anything big, although the tattoo was a big decision for me. In fact, this book is the first time I’ve written about it at all because that tattoo, it was for me and for Jesus. It is a constant reminder of truth on the bright days and the dark days.
As I said on Instagram yesterday, I am a secret keeper. (And I take pride in being a good one.) If you tell me to hold something inside, it will never see the light of day. And because I’m a blogger/author/online person, I try to always have some sort of secret away from the Internet, something that lives apart from an online presence. I’m not sure that was ever intentional, but simply the natural result of making my online life the overflow of my in-person-real-life, instead of the other way around.
And so I haven’t spoken about it. I haven’t posted a single picture of the tattoo (although it’s basically-there in several pictures (example below), which I think is hysterical and I don’t know why).
I pulled out my favorite one-line-a-day journal, wrote the tattoo down for April 2, 2015, and have been keeping it to myself ever since.
My tattoo is still for me and it’s still for Jesus, but I think you should know a little bit about it, too. (If you want the full story, you’ll find it in my book. And why this tattoo is such a big deal to me? That’s in there too.)
I’ve hinted here and there, with a blog post titled the same as my tattoo, Instagram captions with the words of my tattoo over and over again, and yet I’ve never come right out and said it online, never uploaded a single photo or told the story anywhere but the book, and so here’s what I want you to see and hear:
מתוך החושך , אור
That. That is the truth, the Hebrew words etched into my right foot, the phrase I want to live out.
Out of darkness, light.
There is much more to the story than I can sum up in a blog post, but the short version is this: I have learned to walk in the dark. I have lived in the fog, stumbled in the confusion and exhaustion of darkness, woken from night terrors, and battled spiritual warfare. Months later, I attached the word depression to it all, too. And as much as I’d love to tell you all of that is behind me, that would require me to lie to you.
I’m still walking in the dark. The cloud still hovers overhead, following me wherever I go each day.
It’s a bit brighter. There are pinpricks of light, more and more streaming through, the cloud changing from dark grey to deep purple to silver. Truthfully, I don’t think it will ever float away with the wind. I fully believe it could, but I simply don’t believe it will. Because this is my “even if not,” my daily opportunity to say God is good and God is God, even if He doesn’t take away every ounce of darkness in my life on this side of Heaven.
The truth is, He already defeated darkness. And so even when I’m walking in the dark, Light is holding my hand. I believe Jesus Christ is the Light of the world and the Holy Spirit is within me, and so almost two years ago I started talking back to the darkness, proclaiming the Truth over myself and reminding Satan that he’s the loser in this situation.
Out of darkness, light.
When the waves loom large in the distance or the cloud feels heavier, I look down at the words etched into my skin, this temple of the Holy Spirit, and I remember Good Friday, walking toward the cross with black ink marking me as I laid a black cloth on the rough wood. The ink on my foot was only one day old as I approached the cross, thinking of the One who took on scars and marks, bruises and beatings on my behalf.
I look down and remember how the Hebrew language reads from right to left and I smile because the very last word my eyes land on is light. It is the closest word to my toes and so with every single step I take, light is guiding the way. I am stepping out of darkness into light.
I won’t deny the darkness, but I won’t stay quiet about how Light overcomes. It always does and it always will.
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