I was shopping at H-E-B the other day, and the girl at the counter had a tattoo on the inside of her arm. I love asking people about their tattoos and what they mean, so when she showed it to me, it was a simple, beautiful but powerful heart with an anchor on one end and a cross on the other. So instead of asking her what it meant, I made an assumption and said “I like that, your heart is anchored to the cross.” I mean, it was obvious to me, and I wanted to affirm such a great statement that she had made with permanent ink.
To my surprise, she said “No, I don’t know what it means. I just liked the design.” It reminded me that I can so quickly assume I know the thoughts, hearts, emotions, background and story of a person, and can be completely wrong. I was imposing my assumptions on her story, and missing her. Part of meaningful conversations though is being willing to be corrected, listening, and following the story. And, if the opportunity presents itself, to join the story, even if only in conversation.
She was kind enough to keep the conversation going, saying “I like that thought though. I should come up with a meaning for it.” I agreed with her, affirming that when we are drawn to something of beauty, it is probably awakening something in our heart which has a deeper meaning that can often be suppressed or hidden. And unless we take the time to consider the “why?”of something is beautiful to us, we’ll never fully value and appreciate the “what” we are looking at.
I had run my credit card, my items had been bagged up, and as she handed me my receipt, I asked her if I could offer a suggestion as she starts considering a meaning for her tattoo. She said yes, so I shared “I have personally found that when my heart is anchored to Jesus, that whatever storms may come into my life, and they will, He brings a stability and peace like nothing else can. Consider the significance of that cross.” She smiled, said she would think about it, and I left, praying for her, and our short conversation to be part of her journey of faith.
Two things I can assume, however, is that she will have that tattoo for the rest of her life, and that throughout her life, she will encounter various storms that will have her searching for an anchor. And while life will offer many alternatives for her to consider, like money, career, family, marriage, friends, popularity, none of which are bad, but none of which will hold her steady like Jesus can. That’s why the writer of Hebrews calls Him “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”. And of the heart.
And a tattoo can say it all.
Just don’t assume they know.