I am such a sucker for a good story. By good, I don’t necessarily mean “happy”, I just mean a story worth hearing. I am particularly a fan of someone’s personal story whether that be their life story, their faith story, a war story, love story, whatever. I am such a sucker. I think everyone has a story to be told. That being said, if you have ever read any of my other posts, at some point you have probably learned my story, or at least parts. Today I made the decision to create a sort of memorial to my story so I won’t ever forget what my story has entailed. The Israelites had a beautiful thing they did to remember what God had done. They would create a memorial out of rocks and stones to always see and remember God’s providence, healing, freedom, and love. They also, later on, would put the scriptures on their doorpost to always remember the Word of God was true and essential to their lives. I wanted to do the same.
I got my first, and probably only, tattoo. I know what some of you might be thinking: “why mark your body permanently?” I get it, I really do, but bear with me for just a moment.
You see 8 years ago I went on a study abroad trip to Israel that began a new journey for me in my faith. Just before leaving on that trip I had gone through a bad breakup (I know right, typical college student). I had also gone through a season of finding out what I truly believed in God and my calling. When I left for Israel, I was so ready for God to just do something. Anything. I was desperate. I knew I loved God and I knew what he had done in my life. God had brought me out of a dark place just a few years before where I was struggling with my self-esteem and had been addicted to porn (yes, girls can be addicted to porn. yes, I firmly believe porn is utterly destructive). But God freed me from that addiction, not overnight but through discipline, accountability and vulnerability. God was using my story of freedom to help show others that redemption is actually possible- that we don’t have to just stay defeated by what life brings us or what mistakes we have made. So that brings to Israel. I felt defeated again. I felt broken. I felt lost.
My trip to Israel was amazing and actually life-changing. I had a heart that was just ready for something to happen. I was living there for the semester with some amazing friends from college while making new ones. I was able to travel to sites all over the country. Some of the places we went to were historic because of the Holocaust or another war. Some of the places were historic because of the Crusades. Some of the places were enchanting simply because of their beauty and mystery. And yet my favorite places were where Jesus had walked, where stories from the Bible came alive, where my faith was made tangible before me. I stood in the valley where David gathered his stones to defeat Goliath. I was baptized in the Jordan River, the same as Jesus. I went out onto the Galilee and saw the same water that Jesus walked and Peter fished. I hiked above En Gedi, the place where David hid to find peace from Saul. I walked through the Garden of Gethsemane, the same place Jesus prayed regularly but also the place of his betrayal. But of all the places we went to, there is still one place that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it…the Jesus Steps.
By the time we visited the Jesus Steps, I already felt more renewed, alive, ready for more of God than ever before. But those steps brought me to my knees in humility once again. Those steps were along the path people would have walked up from the Garden of Gethsemane. They are called the Jesus Steps now because historians and archaeologists believe that Jesus was brought this path before being held for execution. The whole area was full of old ruins of the Temple jail with a church built at the top of the hill. I was so overcome with knowing that this place was were Jesus was more than likely dragged up the stairs and taken to captivity overnight. He was held in a dark cistern because the guards didn’t want him to get away or be rescued. He endured being beaten, humiliated, cold, damp, and eventually crucified. That darkness he endured was for me. I sat at the base of the Jesus Steps, crouching in a part of the old ruins, just weeping. I wept because Jesus did all of that for me. Weeping because his love for me is so great. Weeping because Jesus loved me with ALL that he was and I was desperate to do the same. I wanted that same kind of love to be part of me.
So you might have forgotten while reading this that I am writing about the story behind my new tattoo. I got the tattoo as a reminder of what God did, both with my story of freedom from porn addiction, but also knowing that I am redeemed and made new. That he made me part of the story that was first for the Jew. I wanted to remember the moment in the ruins when God met me again. I needed to remember that if Jesus could love me with all that he was, even to death, why couldn’t I at least try to love him with all that I was? I wanted to be reminded daily that even when I fail and when I’m weak, Jesus is there and I’m forgiven. I wanted to remember that it is Jesus who is my redeemer and my source and without him being the lead in my life I am nothing but lost. I had been lost before; I didn’t need to go back. My tattoo is my memorial of faith and testimony to the great things God has done in my life. Its a story on my arm that will bear witness to my attempt to love God with all my being, to tell people of his love, and to know that he writes my story.