“I’m getting a tattoo.”
The words Matt uttered were beyond my comprehension, because I grew up with this distinct understanding that only people who loved Satan got tattoos, and even though we now attended a more hipster church that believed in a tattoo-loving Jesus (even our pastor sported his tribal ink), I was still the good girl, terrified of making a mistake, and if Matt got to heaven and found out that Jesus really didn’t like tattoos. Well, he was screwed, because those suckers ain’t coming off.
I needed some time to process this.
Matt didn’t need time, because several days later he called me, “I’m at the tattoo salon. I’m getting my tattoo today.”
I was terrified. I was desperate. I pleaded, “Please don’t do it.”
“Too late. I’m getting it.” Then, his phone went off the grid for the rest of the day.
The truth is my desperation wasn’t the tattoo itself. It was something else, something greater. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was sinking in quicksand.
A few days later, I discovered Matt’s affair.
The second I saw the tattoo, I hated it (even though I wouldn’t admit it), but there is was, 50 miles high and 100 miles wide. This permanent stamp declaring our failed marriage. Every time he walked past, the arabic letters taunted me, you’re not part of this. The tattoo was Matt’s separation from me, and I knew it.
As we weathered the chaotic hurricane of the affair, the tattoo made it through unscathed, and after months of rebuilding I finally spoke the truth.
“I hate your tattoo.”
“I know, I could always tell, and I’m so sorry you have to look at it.” Matt tried to keep a shirt on as much as we could around me to make it easier for me. My mom told me that over time it would just become part of Matt, and eventually I did stop noticing it. When I did happen to notice it, there wasn’t a sting or taunting. It’s like the voices got tired and went home. I began to like the tattoo, and Matt stopped feeling the urge to hide it, but there was something still far away about that tattoo, something I could never capture or never get back.
A couple of months ago, I told Matt I was getting a tattoo, too. On my ribs, but mirrored, so when Matt and I face each other, our tattoos will be next to each other. One as a symbol of brokenness, and one as a symbol of redemption, but together they tell the greatest Love story. This was part of my acceptance.
It took me two seconds to figure out what my tattoo would say. I wanted the words of my love song, well, they’re actually the words to your love song, too, because, you see, it’s Love who looks to us as an object of his desire. We’re the one he longs to see, to be with, to live in.
Even in my darkness, brokenness, depression, anger, and fear he whispers, You are all together beautiful. There is no flaw in you. When I got that I’m the object of Love’s ferocious desire, when I felt the burning of Love’s unquenchable fire within me, everything changed. The deepest human desire is an intimate love without shame, and for the first time in my Christian life, I’d found it.
I can accept Matt’s brokenness and darkness, because my brokenness and darkness is accepted. I can love him with no guarantee of his love in return, because I am loved without shame. I have heard the song of Love, and I know I am lovely. I have finally found my beloved.
I felt the sting as I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me was etched into my ribs.