On September 30th, 2019, after my last Bethany Fellows Retreat, I got my first tattoo in Memphis. It represents the growth I experienced over the course of four years and eight retreats. I wrote about the meaning behind it here. It is based on a quatrefoil and says "Called, Beloved, Wise, Brave."
There were more than a few people who were surprised to find out that I am the kind of person who would get a tattoo.
Turns out I am. And more than that, I am also the kind of person who gets a second tattoo that is larger and more difficult to cover up less than a year later.
Before I got tattoo #1, I had the idea of getting a prayer labyrinth tattoo. One that I could actually use as a finger labyrinth. I've written about the meaning I find in labyrinths (a post that foreshadowed this one at the end). It didn't work for tattoo #1 but I found myself using Google Images to find and save interesting labyrinth designs at the same time I was planning my sabbatical.
Longer story slightly shorter, on September 23, 2020 in Asheville, North Carolina (with appropriate pandemic precautions in place) I got the prayer labyrinth tattoo I had been imagining. It is my sabbatical tattoo, a reminder of the journey that brought me to that time of rest and renewal, the journey I am still on, and the path I continue to walk with God.
It resembles a tree, a nod to the outdoor walking labyrinths that have so often been places of insight and holy connection.
It is a tree with roots, with blooming flowers. A story of growth and blooming in my first five years of ministry and the growth that will continue as I travel this path with God.
When I saw the labyrinth at the retreat center where I ended my sabbatical, when I saw the large tree it was centered around, my sabbatical experience came full circle. A real-life embodiment of the tattoo I had gotten two months earlier.
I prayed "Guide me, O God" as I walked the labyrinth to the tree.
And that is what I remember, what I pray when my fingers find their way to the path between tattooed leaves. When I can't make my way to the quiet of a retreat center labyrinth but I find myself needing a moment to re-center, to rest, to renew my soul.
My first tattoo carries the voices of mentors and friends who spoke truths I sometimes forget. My second tattoo carries lessons learned walking winding paths during times of rest and helps me keep growing on this journey with God.
Turns out I am the kind of person who likes physical, visible reminders to ground me in the truths I tend to forget.