She was good looking and friendly. A few days ago, I had to return something to one of the chain stores we all know. The woman at the customer service desk was one of the most helpful I had encountered in a long time. She also had the tattoo of a wedding ring on the ring finger of her left hand, where a wedding ring would go.
The first thing that struck me was how permanent that tattooed ring was. We think of a ring as the symbol of a lifetime commitment. Yet, as we all know, rings come off all too often in our day and age. I’m not a tattoo person. (I know, I know. All I can offer in defense is nobody’s perfect.) But this tattoo struck me for its location and symbolism.
As I waited for her to do her computer processing thing, I wondered why this tattoo made such a strong impression on me. We all see tattoos every day, but none has ever held my attention for more than a second or two. Then it dawned on me. I’m a notorious mind changer, and the very first thought that comes to my mind when I see a tattoo is: what if I change my mind? I have an uncle who had a tattoo on his arm way back in the fifties. I think it was an anchor or something like that. He changed his mind later in life, and it’s no trivial thing to have a tattoo removed, I learned. At the rate at which I change my mind, I’d be keeping the entire medical community in business for life, and so I’ve just kept tattoos off my radar screen. Until I saw that ring.
When we commit our lives to the Lord, isn’t that the most permanent commitment of all? What better symbol to use for the ultimate in eternal commitments than a (gasp) tattoo? I would be happy to have an engagement ring on my finger as a symbol of my impending marriage to the Lamb. Wouldn’t that be something? And what’s more permanent than a tattooed ring? I don’t even have to take it off when I work in the garden or on the car. What a symbol of a permanent commitment! Hmmm…
I was brought back to planet earth when the customer service gal turned back to me. As she handed me my paperwork, I pointed to her tattoo and said something like nice, tattoo, pretty permanent, eh.
“Yes,” she replied, “unless you have $1,600 to remove it.”
“How do you know how much it costs to remove?” I asked.
The sadness was inescapable as it clouded over her face. “Because I asked for quotes,” she replied softly. I couldn’t miss what she didn’t say. Her heaviness walked out the door with me: someone had changed a mind (again) and someone got hurt (again).
I’m a notoriously slow processor of emotions. And so it wasn’t until a day or two later I realized what an idiot I was. I could have, should have, prayed for that nice woman. At the very least, I should not have ruined her day by reminding her of her misery! To quote Julie Andrews from My Fair Lady: “What a fool I was…what an addlepated fool, what a mutton-headed dolt was I!” (And yes, addlepated is a real word. Have fun looking it up! 🙂 )
I need to expect the unexpected. When I walk in to a store to buy or return something, I have to have my mind focused on the kingdom of God… not my sandwiches! 🙂 We never know when our paths will cross with His plans.