Everyone on the planet has tattoos, even those who aren’t brave enough to write them on the wrapper of their flesh. I discovered this treasure hiding in the black hills of Sturgis South Dakota at the largest motor cycle in the world. As I encountered those beautiful souls who wore their treasured, pain filled stories on their skin. Many of them were brave enough to allow me to peak, ever so gently, under them, of course with great reverence. I listened to their stories that lay just beneath the skin, in the form of the beautiful art work that covered the canvas of their souls. I came to realize how brave these people are who live and walk in the world of ink and how wrong I was in my pride filled, self-righteous assumptions and misconception about this beautiful and deep community. The church community has a lot to learn from the ink community, who don’t hide their stories in the crevasses of their hearts, but let others learn from and help carry those heavy stories that sometimes weigh us down and keep us from flying through this world of gut punches.
This truth was driven deep into my heart when I encountered Branden. Branden was a young man in his twenties, who approached our booth with the words,” I don’t have any tattoos, but I have some scars.” Curious to know more, I quietly waited. Branden began to tell his story of serving in the war in the Afghanistan. Branden’s life had forever changed when he and four other soldiers were blown up by a road side bomb; a bomb that killed one and brought Branden ever so close to valley of the shadow of death. He shared his story with a bravery and honesty that left me floored. Branden’s tattoos were not written in ink, but in the many distortions and scars that were forever carved into his young body. I realized that Branden’s tattoos gave him the opportunity to let others bear the weight of the cold, dark day that forever changed his life. We all have these days, don’t we? Some darker and colder than others, but we all have them none the less. Those days always leave us with a scar if were honest, or maybe a tattoo if we are brave enough to share.
Thank you, Branden, for your service, bravery and sacrifice, and a grateful thanks to my friends in the ink community for being brave enough to write your stories that all might see.
God’s smile be upon you,