God tends to put us in our place whenever I start to doubt my calling. I recently went through a challenging ordeal where the enemy was attacking me. He was using my pride to formulate anger and low esteem.
However, just as I am about to throw in the towel, the Lord reminds me of why my wife and I do what we do. Out on a date night, spending quality time with the most wonderful woman that has ever come into my life. Never in a million years did I think that I would turn to my wife and say, “Hey Theresa, do you want to get a tattoo? This was totally spontaneous and out of left field.
Her answer was, “Really?” I figured she had always wanted something small to remind her of her commitment to our journey with Christ. We looked around and didn’t see one on the street we were on. We then asked our waitress and asked her where to go. She gave us a name in the area and said it was who did her first tattoo. So, off we went.
Once we arrived, we were greeted by this young man who, if I had given him a chance was probably a nice kid, but I didn’t want this kid to touch my wife, due to his apparent uncertainty and the fact that he began our conversation with his minimum requirements on the price. So, off we went again.
Then we stopped at a little place on a back alley that the waitress from earlier had said she had heard some good things about. As soon as we walked in there was this monster of a guy obviously a biker type with a flag headband and tattoos up and down both arms standing at least six foot eleven inches, with a thunderous voice using the “F” word in every possible way that can be said. And it was an instant knowing that “this is the place we need to be”.
As my wife and I sat on the couch worried if a junkyard dog was about to attack us from behind we shook off all of the rudeness and foul language that were are now very unaccustomed to. Then he looked at us and said, “what do you want?”. I am sure he was thinking who are these churchy looking people in my shop? My wife said she wants a tattoo and showed him the picture of what she thought she wanted and he said to come back in an hour and a half. (the approximate time he assumed it would take to do the three young girls in front of us)
I said ok see you at seven thirty and Theresa and I went for a coffee down the street. We thought about it and thought about it. We asked ourselves do we really want to go back to this guy to get a tattoo? We must be nuts, but something was telling us to go back and that it was where we should be.
Somewhere around ten of seven, we started walking back figuring it was a long walk and it was a very hot night and the Big Guy has air conditioning. We walk in the door and he looks at us and shakes his head, then looks at his watch and shakes his head again and he shouts, “What do you want?”, once again. I lost my voice at that moment and Theresa spoke up and said you told us to come back at seven thirty. He shook his head again and said have a seat, I will be with you in a while, I have to finish what I am doing here. (He was still arguing about a design with the three ladies that were there before)
He finally called the girls to the back to do their tattoo’s. I was relieved that there was laughter and less yelling now that he had begun their artwork. It was only a matter of time now. I looked at Theresa and asked her if she wanted to back out and she said no.
Finally, he finishes and looks at us up and down one more time and says, “whatcha got?” Theresa had been trying to decide on what to get on her wrist. Then when she goes up to the Big Guy and shows him her choice, he exclaims, “that’s not what you showed me before!”, and smiled. He then began to apologize for the wait saying he is having “a really bad day and to top it off I’m grumpy”, only using every expletive you can imagine. I am at this point thinking, were dead.
Theresa brought it to his attention that I am a pastoral student and chaplain and he began to apologize again, saying, “see what kind of day I am having?”, “I just here blowing off some steam and who walks in but a pastor’s wife wanting – “Saved by Grace” tattooed on her arm!” I regained my guts and said that I have heard it all before and I appreciate that he was trying to refrain from using profanity around us.
He takes my wife in the back to begin and while he is talking to her he unloads not just what has happened that day but what has been happening in the recent past of his life. He begins tearing up and asks for prayer for he has been diagnosed with a serious illness not to mention his girlfriend had also received the same diagnosis recently, as well.
Meanwhile, his buddy and I begin to have an in-depth (as in-depth as a tattoo parlor can get) about evangelizing and thumping people on the head with a bible. This friend said that he has a friend that is an atheist and he used to go around beating up the people that would stand on the corner handing things out in regards to God. This tattoo parlor friend said that he used to tell the Paul-like prosecutor that it was just as wrong for him to hit those people as it was that those people would be pushing God on others.
Once the shop closed, I was invited back with my wife to shoot the breeze and even more discussion and prayer requests began. At that point, I looked up and said to God, “Your good! Thank you, Lord!”
God put us in our place and last night that place was at that tattoo parlor, in an alley, two states away from us on a hot fall evening while on a date night to make the acquaintance of two of the coolest, kindest, community-oriented tough guys that are truly no different than us, around. We have given our word to pray for them all as long as they need us to.