I met Jesus in a tattoo parlour.
And, no it wasn't anything like that picture.
Don't worry, don't worry. I wasn't going in for a second tattoo. This time, I was simply accompanying a friend as moral support. Trust me, the pain is still very real in my mind... no new needle artwork for me anytime soon.
Anyway... let me set the stage for you. So, there's this tattoo parlour in Gainesville, Georgia. And if you didn't know any better, you might be a little suspicious. I mean, it is located in a building that sits behind a gas station. But, it's legit, I promise. And they have very nice curtains in the windows... which, sadly to say, was the basis on which I originally picked this place. Super intelligent, I know.
So, back to the meeting Jesus thing. As we walked in the door, we were instantly greeted by this, big, tough, burly, tatted-up biker dude. You know, the stereotypical guy that comes to your head when you think tatto parlor. Exact replica. There he is, just sitting back, ever so nonchalantly scanning the room. We gently slide into the nearby chairs, and as all good missionaries do, start up a quick conversation. One thing led to another, and soon we were talking about the Race and all of our adventures from the past year. All of a sudden, as if the guy's chair caught on fire, he quickly shoots up and says... "hold on, i'll be right back" and all but skips out of the room.
Awesome. Our stories even scare off tough, biker dudes.
However, within seconds he returns holding this crumbled up piece of paper, words blotted and scattered throughout the page. He sits back down, looks shyly at his paper and says "I wrote something down this morning and I just really want to share it with ya'll. I knew someone would need to hear this today."
He sits up straight, clears his throat, and begins reading these beautiful, gut wrenching, lines of poetic verse. He speaks so eloquently about the scars, the impurities, and the imperfections of our lives. He reminds us that those things aren't reminders of disgrace or defeat. That instead they are reminders of VICTORY. Those wounds are our badges; they are our medals of HONOR. Those scars tell of our experience, of our journey, of our story. Those imperfections are a reminder that we choose to fight alongside the greatest warrior of all time. These blemishes tell of our commitment to choose into this battle to follow Christ. And he finishes with a line that says...
"and if you don't have any deep scars to show... then you haven't really been chasing after Jesus."
Umm. Excuse me, who are you again?
As he finishes up, he looks up at all of us and with such great sincerity in his eyes and continues speaking. "Yesterday was a hell of a day. As we woke up, my wife and I, we could feel the enemy lines approaching. We knew that they were starring us right in the face. And at that point, early in the day, we knew we had a choice to make. We had to decide then and there if we were going to fight or be overcome." He pauses for a bit, as if picturing the battle scene in his own head all over again; then with a grin he says "And at the end of the day, before we went to bed, we looked back on the day; we looked back on the battle. The one we chose to fight. Our bodies were tired, pierced, and wounded. There were newer and deeper scars to add. But, we were still alive. We were still standing. At the end of the day, we were able to look back on the battle field and physically see the VICTORY that is promised."
See. I told you I met Jesus in a tattoo parlour.
I don't know who this guy is. I don't know his story. I don't know what life looks like for him on a daily basis. I don't know why he chose to share this absolutely beautiful nugget of wisdom with us that day.
What I do know, is that God works in unexpected ways.
What I do know, is that God lives and dwells in unexpected places.
What I do know, is that God doesn't just live in the church.
What I do know, is that He doesn't just exist in "holy" places.
This guy may not be accepted in our modern day church, but he absolutely knows his Father. He may not hang out in the crowds of people we consider to be "christian", but neither did Jesus. He may not look like your typical missionary, but he certainly knows what it means to stand in the middle of the battlefield.
There's a battle to be fought, and victory to be won. And you better believe I want people just like him standing beside me on the front lines.