Posted: March 26th, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , | 7 Comments »

I have four tattoos. I have the Hebrew symbol for ‘chin’ (grace) on the inside of my left wrist, a couple of stars, and a ring of flowers on my right ankle. The ring of flowers on my right ankle is an eyesore for me. It’s poorly placed and poorly drawn.

I was seventeen and wanted to brand myself with the rebellion in my bones. I have a wild gypsy heart and when it goes unchecked, I can turn peace into a tornado. I drew a little flower and had a friend copy it in a ring around my ankle with his homemade tattoo gun. I’ve had it worked on a couple of times to try to improve it, but it ended up being a darker, wider, slightly prettier version of the same eyesore.

Two years later, I became a Christian. The rebellion in my bones now had conviction.

I remember sitting at an alter call and begging God to make an outward difference like He made an inward difference. I begged Him to make my tattoo scale up and fall off. He answered me by saying, “The tattoo will remind you of where you came from.”

I know that should have been a source of hope, that I would be so far from my old life that I would need a reminder. But it wasn’t, really. It felt like a pat on the head. I had no patience.

My life before I was 19 earned me survival skills. My life after I became a Christian has earned me patience.

The two eras were separate. It is since my big failure that I am whole.

My past always embarrassed me. I was 28-years-old when I talked about my childhood on the Today Show. That was the first time most of the people in my life heard about it. But now I see that my past explains me. It explains me because it explains God to me.

“Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed. Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.” -Isaiah 54:4 MSG

Our past can kill our self-esteem. It kills how big we’ll dream. It reduces how hard we try.

You are your story and if you try to bury it, you’ll be too busy trying to segment yourself to do anything else. Everything you do will be hollow.

God allows you to break so that your past can be healed. When you hit bottom, all of your pain comes out of the woodwork and buries you just like you were afraid it would.

It’s only when you survive your worst that you can live free from the fear of becoming your worst. It’s like being afraid of something until you try it, then never being afraid of it again. When you live through something you never thought you would live through, it changes you.

You are your story. You never have to be afraid of it or embarrassed by it. “Don’t hold back. You’re not going to come up short.”




7 Comments on “tattoos”

  1. 1 Traylor Lovvorn said at 9:43 am on March 26th, 2012:

    Beautifully said, Serena! Thank you for the fresh reminder that we can boldly journey into the pain of our past…not for more shame, but for deep healing! Let's connect soon…Mel and I have lots we want to update you on! Exciting days of grace upon us!


  2. 2 serenawoods said at 1:50 pm on March 26th, 2012:

    Catching up sounds great. 🙂 I'm out of the loop.

  3. 3 Jason Wert said at 10:57 am on March 26th, 2012:

    "Our past can kill our self-esteem. It kills how big we’ll dream. It reduces how hard we try."

    Oh my…this hits home. I've been struggling with this over the last year when I felt God pushing me to dream. For so long I stopped dreaming because I have never seen God do something in my life that is on a "God" scale. I never saw Him open a door to one of my biggest dreams. I know disappointment almost every time I step out and put my faith into God. Sure, it's because I wasn't in line with His will, but it still has that hurt. So I stopped dreaming because I didn't want to hurt any longer.
    My recent post The loneliness of the short distance walker

  4. 4 serenawoods said at 1:52 pm on March 26th, 2012:

    I hear you. 🙂 I've always been impatient. Always wanting a big sign from heaven.

  5. 5 Robyn said at 2:09 pm on March 26th, 2012:

    My past will not define me. 🙂

    Thank you!
    My recent post Fragile

  6. 6 Growing Mama Sprouting Child said at 10:19 pm on March 26th, 2012:

    My past did kill my self esteem and your right it also killed my dreams and took away any strength I had to try to live them. I was hollow. I broke down about two years ago and finally came to Christ fully last year. I am full of life now and full of God, I can only be myself and it's incredibly liberating and free it's still a Journey but it's better living than hiding from the past.

    Thank you so much for this, it got to me deeply. I can't wait to get my hands on that book : – )

    Michelle @growingmama

    My recent post Growing Mama: My Real Life

  7. 7 cherees said at 7:30 pm on March 27th, 2012:

    Thank you, I needed to hear this. I have a tattoo that after I got it I was belittled, called a devil worshipper and at the time I was very active in church. After it happened I pulled far away from church from God and even now I am active in church with both the children and youth groups and I am worried what people might say even in a new place and I need to let it go and know God uses me no matter what.

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