My heart pounded as the paper rested against my skin. I felt him pull the sheet off, the cool air brushing against the dampness, and I glanced back, half-smiling and half-hesitating.
“You ready to do this? It's going to look f-ing amazing.”
I nodded and he smiled and then the buzzing of ink filled our space, a familiar sound. With it, the pain. I always forgot the pain. I wondered if I had it in me to last the session. I thought about the artwork - the anatomical heart, the crown, the birds - and something shifted inside. I swallowed my tears and sat resolute, knowing what lesson I’d be learning.
A few months earlier, a word fell into my heart and made itself at home. I knew it would be my word for the coming year, and began praying about what it would mean for me to take it seriously. You see, I like to run away. And this word? This word would force me to stay.
Stay in healing.
Stay in His arms.
Stay in pain.
In 2012, I'd be learning the significance of what it meant to abide.
And a day before the new year, I found myself sitting in a tattoo parlor, etching into my skin so much of the past year. Two and a half hours of scratching away the old and revealing the new. Two and a half hours of me fighting the fear and breathing deep and accepting the change.
Toward the end, I realized I couldn’t do it alone.
I called for my husband, on the other side of the counter reading.
“Hold my hand?" My face scrunched up because I knew the tears were close.
"You need a break?" The tattoo artist noticed the way my voice shook and paused long enough to see me shake my head.
"No. Keep going."
"Good. It looks f-ing incredible, Elora."
I caught Russ' eye and he smiled.
"It's true. It looks amazing." And then he grabbed my hand, caressing my knee with the fingers not latched in between my own.
Please get me through this I prayed and realized how silly it sounded—me whispering prayers in a tattoo parlor— but everything in me wanted to run.
So I closed my eyes and remembered.
I remembered the first time my heart of stone cracked from the heat of His presence. I remembered the way the flesh underneath felt raw and vulnerable. i thought about how many times i heard people mention the promise of Him making our heart of stone into a heart of flesh and how I never really knew what it meant. I knew now it meant pain. It meant sacrifice and change and brokenness. The stone may crack at first, but eventually it needs to shatter.
I thought about how even then I was still experiencing the shards falling off in pieces.
I remembered His promise to take these ashes of my past and to give me a crown of beauty. I remembered all of the promises of freedom and renewal and restoration He’d given me over the years - how I never put any of them together until I truly allowed Him to take over—and now I was beginning to see the beauty of those ashes. They were forming something all-together different than I ever imagined and it made me feel alive and worthy and loved.
And then His goodness. I thought about how before I even utter a sound He knows my needs. I remembered over the past year—the moments I wondered if I could take another step—He came and rescued me. When i felt forgotten, He reminded me that even the birds are named, and I’d feel at peace.
I sat there and remembered this and tears of gratitude filled my eyes.
"You got this," my tattoo artist said and I laughed because I knew the Truth.
I didn’t have anything. It was Him who held everything in His hands.
Then I understood—I couldn’t run away if I tried.
When Beauty pursues you, the only thing left to do is abide.