tattoos, stories, prayer, redemption

My first tattoo I ever got was the word “grace” in cursive on my left wrist, with a date underneath it written like this 3-3-08. I still love the word grace on there, but I want to cover the date and I have a great way I want to fix that tattoo involving adding the words “hail Mary, full of” to the grace, and turning the date into rosary beads and a rose. However, the date on there was the last date that I ever prayed a version of “the sinner’s prayer,” the magic works that were supposed to make me go to heaven when I die. I mean if you had a pastor preaching that there would be a zombie apocalypse before “the rapture” and “the great tribulation,” you might be scared into saying those words again too.

I do, however, believe God still honored those words, every time I prayed them, because they truly were out of a sincere desire to love God, in the way that I understood and comprehended God. I have always wanted to love God even from a little girl. I believe God, with God’s knowledge of everything, knew that. God knew it would be many, many, years down the road, but that those prayers I prayed earnestly would come to fruition one day, as they did at the time of my baptism in a way. The word “grace” was tattooed there because I wanted it to cover some cutting scars, although inadequately, and I’ve not cut myself now in just over fourteen years, because God was with me.

My tattoos tell a story, and I believe these tattoos are stained glass of the body, which makes them religious art and therefore prayers. My second tattoo I paid the dude five bucks for his ink, because it was a simple semicolon on the inside of my right ankle. I’ve not yet told my children what the semicolon means, and they have not asked in quite some time. In fact, it tells our generations apart quite well because one day one of the kids asked me what the semicolon was for and my youngest daughter said that’s not a semicolon, you idiot, it’s a winky face emoji. I’ve not corrected her on that yet, and I think next time they ask, they will probably be ready to know. For those who don’t know what the semicolon means, it’s a tattoo for suicide attempt survivors. I connected with a biker one day who had his behind one of his ears. The idea behind it is that our lives are a story, and that where those of us who wanted to die by suicide wanted to put a period, to end the sentence and the story, God put a semicolon because the sentence and the story weren’t finished yet.

I have a big-ass crucifix on my left arm which I’ve written about several times. It’s Jesus, close to my heart. Anyone thinking of getting a Jesus-related tattoo might want to think about placement and about if they really want to do so, if they are not a good Christian, because Jesus on my arm will often cause me to feel ashamed of some words that should not have come out of my mouth or actions I should not have done. But I’m glad to have Jesus there anyway. I also think of the Apostle Peter a lot when thinking about my tattoo. One day I had a warlock look at it and ask me about it, saying that it was an interesting choice for a tattoo. I’m ashamed of it now but I shrugged and said that I no longer believed in Jesus and that I wasn’t a Christian anymore. I’m thankful that Jesus still forgives those who deny him and betray him, and actively came and found me.

My fourth tattoo is one that I came to regret after a while, but thankfully Jesus is in the redemption business and I don’t regret it anymore. It’s a purple crescent moon with filigree work around it. It was to celebrate my becoming a witch, a mark to indicate that I was committed, and to celebrate my power. It’s on my right shoulder and it’s quite large. People admire it a lot, and ask me about it. It depends on who I am talking to as to how much I tell someone. Often I will say that it symbolizes something that I regret, but that since Jesus redeems things, it’s now just a moon. It’s a moon with a story, a moon that shows the power of Jesus, and a moon to remind me of the regret of taking that path in the first place enough to not want to again.

A St. Benedict jubilee medal tattoo completes my collection for now, it’s the most recent. The medal is a prayer in and of itself, basically telling Satan to go take a hike and that I’m not buying the wares he has to sell. It’s a poignant reminder to walk in the light, it’s a symbol asking St. Benedict for his intercession, and it looks great!

If my body is a temple, I say the temple needs art, and so my tattoos are here as a story of my journey, of the power of Jesus Christ changing my heart and life, a reminder to keep walking with Jesus, a prayer of committment and a display of redemption.

Published by MaryClare StFrancis

MaryClare StFrancis is a writer who sounds as boring as hell but who is intimately acquainted with the horrific and the sacred. For a long time, darkness has been her friend, but she now walks in the light of Christ. As a committed Episcopalian, her main contribution to the church is her ability to make the priests facepalm or swear, depending on the day and context. MaryClare has a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and lives in Mississippi with her four children.

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