Friday, August 14, 2009

My Tattoo

After reading the title, you might think I have a tattoo. Alas, I do not. But, I've got everything all planned out. And I'm so excited, I want to tell you about it!

You can see the image below.

It was presented to me as an illustration of a theological term: "perichoresis." In the image you might be able to decipher (through the Latin) the Parent at the top is neither the Son nor the Spirit; the Son to the right is niether the Parent nor the Spirit; and the Spirit to the left is neither the Parent nor the Son. However, the Parent is God in the center, as is the Son and the Spirit.

The image and the understanding are ancient. By tattooing this image on my body, I will place a visual representation of a large part of my history in the Christian trinitarian camp. Whatever I may come to believe, a part of me will always be trinitarian, even if it isn't the current part. (I'm not saying I am or am not currently trinitarian, but rather that I cannot tell the future. If you wonder about my current leanings, you'll have to ask sometime.)

The image and the idea also represent community, with an emphasis on unity, a unity I one day hope to enter and a unity I yearn to share, echoing the prayers of Jesus (John 17, esp. vv. 11 & 21). I know not whether we'll ever reach that community this side of the kingdom, but I know we must try and keep our eyes on that goal.

Along these same lines, my tattoo will remind me of Revelation 3:12: "I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name" (cf. Rev. 19:16). That kingdom, that new Jerusalem is how I envision perichoresis. It is not a real city descending onto earth, but rather our God, whose name I will be written on me,

written on my inner thigh.

Awkward? Sure. I won't go around showing everyone. I probably won't post pictures on facebook (more in consideration for the comfort level of others). But my tattoo isn't for other people to see (although I'll show people who want to see it). It is highly aesthetic, but personal aesthetics are about beauty beyond what people can see.

My tattoo will be in the right place for a vow. When Abraham wanted his son to have a wife (and, in turn, children), he asked his servant to swear by placing his hand on Abraham's inner thigh (Gen. 24; cf. Gen. 47:29). We make this connection etymologically in English, too. The word "testimony" comes from the Latin "testis," meaning "to witness." That same Latin word gives us the English, "testicle."

In the Genesis examples, the oaths were done at the brink of death, but taken by the source of life, as they understood it. I don't think I'm making any oath I haven't already made: a commitment to God, a commitment to love, and a commitment to social justice--these commitments and many others, but all the same one.

I've been telling people the inner thigh was used for blessings. I was incorrect, I guess. When I started looking at my Bible, I found out the text only says the inner thigh was for oaths. However, I wouldn't be surprised if some of those blessings had the hand on the inner thigh, since they were often for progeny. But, I am speculating. Still, I like my tattoo's location reminiscing of an oath (or blessing), for instead of having children, I want to help God's children. Instead of leaving behind the fruit of my loins, I want to leave behind the fruit of God's love in my life.

My tattoo will not be a reminder. I don't want a reminder on my body. My commitment is written on my heart. My tattoo will be the love and passion I cannot contain inside. The Spirit flows out of me--although I too often suppress it--in my actions and words, but soon it will also change my permanent appearance just as it changes who I am becoming and how I am becoming that person.

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