Monday, November 4, 2013

Tattoos on the Heart (a great book by the way)

A lot of our students at Apache Youth Ministries have tattoos.

Yes, that's right, a lot of our teenage students have permanent tattoos. 

You notice them on their hands, their arms, their feet. Some (few from what I've seen) are professionally done. Most are homemade, which makes them look even better! (sarcasm). I've actually learned something new by openly asking about the strange marks on our kids. Apparently you can tattoo yourself with liquid eyeliner and a sewing needle. Yep. Who knew. Also learned that one of my girls pierced her lip with a safety pin in the Kennel bathroom last year. This job is certainly never dull.

With the extraordinary amount of homemade tattoos on my students I began to ask myself why. Why do these kids in particular feel the need to mark themselves with liquid eyeliner and ink? I was reminded of something I learned in a fantastic class called Encountering the City. In the class we heard from a guy who was a graffiti writer. Just like tattoos, graffiti can be seen as a sign of immaturity, as rebellion, or anything else negative. But then you take the time to listen. You begin to understand that really the tattoos and the graffiti are signs of something deeper. In the case of the graffiti writer, he wrote his name all over the place in order to see that he had an identity, to be known, to have proof that he existed. 

I think the same is true of my kids. They want to know that they are different, that they have an identity, they want to be marked so that they can prove their existence, their identity. Perhaps they don't realize this deep reason for their eye-liner tattoos, but here is what I think:

I think that Christ can be the tattoo that truly never fades in their lives. I believe in what we do at AYM and I believe that the more time these kids spend with us the more they will realize the importance of Christ's tattoo on their heart. My goal when I hang out with these kids is that they know that they have an identity that goes past what they are told by their parents and guardians. I want them to know that with me, they have nothing to prove, and nothing they do can make me erase them from my heart. The hope is that they see that their names are written on His hands, that He has marked them on His heart. 

Their tattoos, therefore, become for me a reminder of why I am here. I am here to help these students become prisoners of hope instead of despair. I am here to let them know that they are tattooed on my heart, and that they have an identity and a purpose in Christ's deep and abiding love for them.

And I am here to let them write (temporary) tattoos on my hands, because sometimes that is what it takes to know you exist and will not be forgotten.

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