“I will never get a tattoo.”
Sitting on the Jacksonville International Airport floor, cuddled up to an electrical outlet charging the iPhone, the memory of my words stirs a chuckle as I draw a cross in the webbing of my right hand for the 148th day in a row.
It’s not that I’ve ever been opposed to tattoos. I like them. On someone else’s skin. Telling someone else’s story. One application of someone else’s ink at a time. That is, until someone else’s permanent markings got me thinking about my own story. My own ink.
One hundred forty-nine days earlier I watched “The Passion of the Christ.”
Roman guards struggle to position the mangled, bloody mess of Jesus’ body on top of the grounded cross for crucifixion. His weak mass flops back and forth across the main post until his left outstretched arm is bound with rope to the intersecting beam.
I winced knowing what was coming next. A slow-motion montage. A thick, archaic nail positioned in his palm. The rise then lowering of a hammer.
Bam. Vibrating echoes with each pound drives the metal deeper into the flesh.
Bam. Jesus grits his blood-soaked teeth.
Bam. Red liquid spurt from his palm.
The next day I pondered the ramifications of watching this gruesome act of love. I couldn’t unsee it. So. What was I willing to do? If He was willing to do that, what was I willing to do?
I was on fire to help snatch other alcoholics from the devil’s jaws. But am I strong enough to pull the curtain back and expose my silent humiliation in order to scream, “You’re not alone. I’m down here with you.”
Yes. But I wanted a physical reminder for the days I knew it would be tough to stand in belief.
I prepped the tip of a Pilot medium tip pen on a piece of scratch paper and circled the fresh flow of blue ink over and over in the center of my right palm, showing homage to my Savior’s scars. Before the day was over, I barely remembered the doodle session and condensation from icy water bottles erased any proof of it.
I reached for another sip. Looking at my grip, it hit me: A cross on the webbing of my drinking hand.
A well-known symbol in an odd location. A conversation starter to share a testimony. And, if I ever reached for a libation, an emblazoned reminder that God didn’t save me for failure.
That day, and every day after, I manually draw a cross in the same spot.
Maybe one day I’ll put my story down in permanent ink. Until then, I always pack an ink pen and enjoy the daily ritual of my temporary scar.
This has been an excerpt from the forthcoming book Stumbling Into Sobriety. To receive a free sample copy, make a donation to The Crushed Velvet Project on the main page.