Sometimes the hardest part of moving off the streets is not the present, but the past. Broken relationships, addictions, disabilities and diseases, as hard as it is to think about a fact of life is that some things can last forever. I've heard people refer to this as "the wreckage of the past life." Some mistakes last forever... Or so it can seem.
One of those seemingly permanent mistakes is tattoos. We see them everywhere, and we've all probably had moments wondering, "What could they have been thinking?" Embarrassing maybe, but not really a big deal. That can't be said, however, for all tattoos, especially the kinds that mark gang affiliations, religious commitments, moral decisions, and so on and on.
I have a friend who has picked up a remarkable collection of tattoos of this kind. These aren't just the kind that might raise and eye-brow or elicit a hidden chuckle. These are of the kind that make finding housing extremely difficult, employment actually impossible, and lead, very often, to outright violence. Hatred breeding hatred. Imagine having a mark on your body that, just by being seen by the wrong person, gets you jumped. Attacked. Beat down.
I'll say at this point that I'm not sharing any pictures, but you will have to imagine how serious something like that might be.
It's like the Mark of Cain in reverse. Remember the story. Cain strikes down his brother and is cursed. Driven from the ground that he had tilled, he is cursed to be a "restless wanderer on the earth." But God marks him, somehow, with a mark that will protect him from destruction. In the reverse, I'm talking about a mark that confines, that traps, and that marks one out for destruction. How would you live with such a thing?
So for my friend, what can we do? They want to leave that old life behind, seeking in the present to change the future which is chained to the past. They ready, in part, to leave that behind. They want to start the journey.
Well, we can thank God for some modern technology. I reached out to Brian Seghers at Rendition Tattoo, here in Redlands, and asked him for any ideas or help he could provide. He referred me to Senza Aesthetic Medicine, also in Redlands. They do tattoo removal. After a couple of conversations with their staff, the owner, Dr. Leonardo Rasi, graciously agreed to do the entire procedure for free. Tattoo removal is very expensive, and takes many, many sessions so this is no small gift.
Today they completed the first session.
I cannot overstate how wonderful the staff were, how gentle and respectful they were, how professional and kind. I was blown away. Its going to be a long road for my friend, but they are in excellent hands.
The whole experience leads me to think about the black marks we all bear, if not on our outward flesh then our hearts and souls. We all have memories and moments that we wish had never happened. Some of these we can name as our own sins, some are the sins that others have inflicted upon us. What can burn away these marks? Certainly no laser or device of man...
But God can! What wonder in those three words! But God can. God knows us better than we know ourselves, He sees the black marks we bear better than we can see them ourselves. He knows better than we how permanent they are, how impossible it would be for us to try to remove them ourselves. It is only by His miraculous intervention that there is any hope, for any of us. And, as the Word of God speaks,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2.4-7
This is the wonder of the Gospel. That Jesus is Lord, and He has acted our behalf. He doesn't just leave us in our wreckage, but fully restores, fully heals. He seats us in heavenly places, and heaps his boundless riches upon us. Is there any other force so powerful as the Grace of God?
Please be praying for my friend, they are starting a long journey. Join me in thanking God for people in our community who are willing to help.