“I want to get a wedding ring tattoo please.” There I stood in a tattoo parlor in Northern Ireland, very single, very determined, and willing my voice not to tremble as I made this request.
What lengths have you gone to in your life to never forget the love and promises of God?
That was my moment. I knew how ridiculous my request must have been to these two very pierced, very tattooed, and oh so very indifferent gentleman that worked at the shop. But I didn’t care – I was desperate to never forget the lesson of love God had just gifted to me.
To understand this moment I must rewind a bit. I was living in the Czech Republic as a missionary, never having dated much in my adult life in America and now living in what I obnoxiously called “Dating Siberia” I was fearful that I would never be married if I kept saying ‘yes’ to God’s calling as a missionary.
A life without love, without romance, without intimacy with another… it felt cruel. And I allowed that fear to become an idol. I idolized the thought of being loved and adored by a man. I spent more time fantasizing what my life would be like once married then I did on the ministry that introduces people to the one true God, whose very nature is Love.
My heart’s desire was out of order. I knew I was living in fear and making decisions in pursuit of my idol vs. my God.
“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Song of Solomon 2:10
God graciously allowed me to reflect and retreat. Just the two of us. I found myself a cozy chair, a cup of tea, a window with a view of the sea in Northern Ireland. Four days I sat, in stillness and silence, waiting to hear a booming proclamation from the Heavens, God pronouncing me, “FREE OF FEAR!” and forevermore I would be able to go about the work of the Lord. Ha! Our ways are not as high as His ways.
It was actually in the tormented tears poured out in my room at night, that stained the pages of my journal and the cover of my pillow, that I battled with understanding God’s love when it felt cruel and cold and lonely. But what is the Love of God really?
“7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.….19 We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:7-19
I only know of love because of God. Every desire to be loved and known is birthed out of what God has already shown me in His love to me. The love that I so desired… I already possessed.
God was not leaving me alone, God was with me.
My deepest longing to be known was found in my God who knows me beyond what any man would be earthly able to discover.
It was a breathtaking revelation: the love of a man, I sought and idolized, would only ever be second-best compared to the greatest and unending love of God. My fear of missing out on the love of a man, that had crippled me before, quickly faded away at the awesomeness of God’s perfect love.
The love of the Father is all I ever need. When I know that, all else fades. My heart is content and at rest.
That beautiful revelation is what I sought to immortalize in a tattoo on that sunny day in a Northern Irish tattoo shop. However, the gentleman informed me they would only take cash for the proposed wedding ring tattoo. Undeterred, I set out to find an ATM. I happened to call my sister en route, “Lo! What are you thinking?!” She talked me out of the tattoo idea and talked me into a promise ring. Ha! Our ways are not as high as His ways.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” Psalm 68:19
I believe it’s important to note, my desires for marriage, for the love of a man faded, but did not disappear with this revelation of God’s love for me.
And through the years when I was tempted to believe that my desires were unmet by an unloving and unfeeling God I remembered His truth and that He walks with me and carries this burden, as a loving God would.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
As I sit and write I can look down at my ring finger, recently adorned with a stunning wedding ring, representing the covenant between my new husband and me. What a good gift, in perfect timing, that God has given me in my husband. But despite the fact that there was never a tattoo on my finger, the reminder of that day 9 years ago in a tattoo shop in Northern Ireland hasn’t been forgotten.
It was when God showed me that whatever earthly love I would ever know I first needed to know the perfect love of my Father.