Shelley du Plessis on finding security in Jesus

Tigers, Tattoos And Engravings

Nature holds many diverse mysteries, which seem to be totally mystifying. There are so many interesting, quirky things that animals do, that leave us wondering at the creativity of the creator. Why do camels spit? Why can't lions purr; they are cats after all? Why does the hyena giggle and constantly salivate when he looks at you?

It was one of these random animal mysteries that took me down a path of discovery. I found out that the stripes on a tiger are not merely a pattern on its fur, but actually are stripes on its skin and the black hair grows out of the corresponding black stripe on the skin. Also, every tiger has a different set of stripes; no two are the same. The stripes on a tiger are really like our individual finger prints that can be identified by their stripe pattern. It is as if God tattooed stripes onto their skin and then filled in the spaces with hair, to create one of the most magnificent coats on any animal.

There are other groups of creation who willingly ink their skin in order to express all sorts of inner feelings and / or tribal bonds. People have been inking or tattooing themselves for centuries. During my southern hemisphere summer break, I started some research into tattooing, the artists and the people providing the canvas of their skin. There are some incredible artists with an eye for colour, texture and definition, whom I imagine should be painting on canvas. I am certainly not supporting tattooing and have often wondered what happens over time to the lovely lizard on a twenty year old. Does it become a dangerous dragon when they turn sixty?

As I researched, I came across the people and the motivating stories behind their tattoos. Many wanted tattoos as a commemoration of a special event, such as overcoming drug addiction, a life threatening disease or an abusive relationship. Others wanted to have identical tattoos to mark their commitment to one another. Some wanted graphic designs, tribal masks, animals or reptiles, to highlight their inner sense of worth and value. Still others wanted to immortalize dead parents, grandparents, siblings and special people on their skin, so that they would never be alone and always have someone looking over their shoulder, making them feel that they could survive another day in life. The stories continued, with some wanting angels or angel wings or sad fairies so they could believe that their dead loved ones have gone to heaven.

Many of these people returned over and over for new 'inks' or tattoos, because they cannot find the peace or surety they are looking for through the previous tattoos they have had.

My research has revealed an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, lack of identity and acceptance in many of the people being tattooed. My heart was turned towards them and their need for Jesus. I realized again that Jesus is the answer to the fulfillment of much of what they are looking for. However, what I have also found is that for many, the church and Christianity have often been irrelevant and insensitive to their needs, and the church is the last place that they would go for help.

The challenge today is to introduce people to Jesus, so that they can experience a real, relevant and dynamic relationship with Him, without the legalism of rituals. Jesus didn't practice, "You have to behave before you can belong". He simply said; "Let's hang out together and, as you get to know me, you will be changed and find peace and everything you have been longing for." I long for the church to become radical and relevant, reaching out to a community that needs assurance that there is someone who knows and loves them, to the extent that He died so that they could belong!"

As I have been mulling over these sad stories, the Father brought two portions of the bible to my mind, which have so encouraged me.

Firstly, Proverbs 7: 1-3

My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.

God is saying, learn the truths about me and write or tattoo them on your heart, from where they cannot be removed. In other words, when I have an understanding and deep knowledge of Jesus, many things will pass my way, but I will not be thrown or undermined because of the truth tattooed on my heart. I will be secure because of the knowledge I have of Jesus.

Secondly, Isaiah 49: 15-16

"Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me."

Again, God was saying that, even though the person who should love you the most, rejects you, He has engraved, not just tattooed, your name on the palms of His hands. Therefore, your name will always be before Him. Tattooing on certain areas of the body is really painful. Engraving on the palm of a hand would be excruciatingly painful. God says He will constantly hold your name before Him.

So, at the end of my research, I have come to this conclusion. I will write, etch, tattoo the truths of Jesus on my heart, so that I can lead a victorious life, while my Father in turn, engraves the palms of His hands with my name, keeping my name continually before Him.

I am overwhelmed by Father. There is no other way to have peace and freedom from our personal fears and 'devils', but to belong to Jesus! CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.