Some conservative Christians say, “If you get a tattoo, you will go to hell.” Well, I decided to go to Hell so I could get a tattoo! I should probably clarify that I simply went to a tattoo parlour named Hell Tattoo…I did not go to the netherworld!
I am writing this blog today so that I can describe what my tattoos mean to me, because I do not want to forget! I got them four days ago (10 March 2016), and I am very excited about them. I put a lot of thought into the design. I had considered a script font and a Biblical quotation, but I ultimately went with symbols instead, because the symbolism reminds me of so much more. I am sure the meaning will take on different significance over the coming years, but here was my thought process in designing it. (I came up with the concept design, but my tattoo artist, Charlotte, is awesome! I highly recommend her!)
Technically, it is three tattoos:
- An Arm Band
- A Cross
- An Arrow
On the Arm Band:
Arm bands are symbolic of mourning the death of someone. I have always loved the way solid arm band tattoos looked, so I have had a longing to get one for a while. I didn’t want to simply memorialize the dead with a solid arm band, however, at the same time, I know it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting (cf. Ecc. 7.2). As a follower of Christ, there are two death which I “mourn:” (1) the death of Christ, and (2) the daily death of myself. The biblical narrative describes that Satan bruised Jesus’ heal, but ultimately Jesus crushed Satan’s head. Thus, my arm band represents death, but death has no sting! (1 Corinthians 15.55; Hosea 13.14) I have purposely not allowed the arm band to be complete, the arm band does not connect! There is a negative space of a cross, showing that death was defeated by death! When I see my arm band, I remember that death was defeated by death, and that death has no sting, and no victory.
On the Cross:
But I did not want to simply leave it at that. The cross still has importance. I wanted the negative space from the band, to be placed on my wrist as a positive space. The negative space cross is surrounded by death, whereas the positive space cross is surrounded by life. Jesus tells each of us to take up our cross on a daily basis. Thus, I got the positive space cross on my wrist. Taking up my cross on a daily basis is far more than simply getting a tattoo on my wrist, this is simply one reminder to do this on a daily basis. I would say that there are really two kinds of death.
One death is a death of decay. It requires no added energy, this includes all types of death whether it be heart disease, cancer, homicide, or suicide. These deaths are all a type of decay. (It could be argued that these deaths require “energy,” but in reality they do not. The process of performing homicide or suicide may require “energy,” but the death is nothing more than decay.)
The other death is a death of taking up the cross, it is an active death. It is not a death of decay. It requires energy. The only energy which gives one the strength to die this death is the Holy Spirit. He energizes us for good works (cf. Eph. 2.10) This type of death has hidden within it life. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9.24) And as Paul says in Colossians 3.3, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” So even though Christ has defeated death by death, I still need to take up my own cross every day.
On the Arrow:
Why the arrow? Well, the arrow is very special to me. My last name, Fletcher, means “arrow maker.” And in Psalm 127.3-5, we read:
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
The arrow symbolizes my daughter, Leona, who was born just 8 weeks ago. There is a small circle in the middle of the shaft representing that she is my first daughter, but also representing that the arrow is broken—yet mended. She, like all of us, is a broken person. And in Native American culture (yes, I have some Native American blood), a broken arrow symbolizes peace (the true Native American symbol for peace would be a completely broken arrow which has not been mended). So, while I want my daughter to be a warrior (cf. Eph. 6), I also want her to live with the peace of Christ at all times. The arrow is pointed towards the cross (the armband and cross also represent a bow’s crosshairs and a bullseye) because I want her to always look to Christ in all things. Furthermore, an arrow must be pulled back in order to go forward, so even though life may feel difficult and as though you are being pulled backward, we are still called to aim towards Christ in all things.
On the Holistic Interpretation:
And hidden within all of this meaning, is a verse which strikes me to the core, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9.27) The three tattoos together represent that I am preaching the gospel to my daughter, and I do not want to play the hypocrite. I want to remember to live what I preach, lest I be disqualified. The only way I can do this is by meaning it when I say, “I die every day,” (1 Cor. 15.31) because truly, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Php. 1.21) “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12.24)
So, yes, some conservative Christians say, “If you get a tattoo, you will go to hell.” As I said already, I decided to go to Hell so I could get a tattoo! But in my going to Hell, it made me a more faithful follower of Christ, after all, Jesus went to hell for three days—I only had to spend an hour in Hell! No, I did not need to get a tattoo in order to be a more faithful follower of Christ, but for me, my tattoos continually remind me—by the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit—of the things which I just wrote about, and because of that, getting my tattoos have helped me follow Christ.