Two things I have to tell you before you view the video. I first saw this a few days ago; a friend had posted it and it came up my Face Book page. I watched it four times. I cried each time. Be prepared to be touched. The other thing is the use of ‘language’. You’ll hear the f word and s word but listen to the tone in which those words are used. Not hurled at someone else, more toward themselves. Sometimes used in awe; sometimes used in sadness.
The back story is about a rehab center in California. It’s for people coming out of the gangs and starting life fresh. Except – they are permanently marked and the boldness of the markings, and where they are placed, are what is so frightening to us. Just by the markings, I would be afraid to pass anyone of these folks on the street. Yet – what does Jesus tell us? “You will know them by their fruit.” We, as Christians, are to look not at the person as presented to us, but at what they do and say and how they live. That is the fruit we’re to look for. Through the rehab center they are able to get ‘normal’ jobs, support themselves and their families, walk a different road than the one they chose when they were younger.
The image that made my cry – time after time – is the picture of the young woman. I’m a mom; I have a son and a daughter. My son has no tattoos, my daughter has a couple on her arm. She dreaded the day I saw hers. What can you do? It’s a done deal. But this young woman – so pretty, so fresh and young, and a whole life ahead of her – her facial tattoos, especially under each eye, tore me up. What must life have been like for her to put such a thing on her face. If eyes are the window of the soul, what does this ‘window dressing’ tell us? And I just start crying again. So young to be so hurt by the world. Maybe it was family, maybe it was ‘friends’. I don’t know. It’s a culture so beyond my experience, I find it hard to relate. Except … I have a daughter, too. The world has hurt her, too. Maybe what a tattoo really is, is a symbol that tells the world, “I’ve been hurt” – even if it’s a cute little pixie or a dolphin; it says, “I’ve been hurt”.
They looked for acceptance from man rather than the unfathomable love of Jesus. Somehow, Jesus was less real to them than the people they ran with. Whose fault is that? There’s no way of knowing. I look back at how I was raised and ask if my life was different. My parents were both believers but they never taught us about Jesus – the church did that. The closest we came to discussing Jesus was the lighting of the birthday candles on the cake Mom made for Him every Christmas. Had I lived in another place and time, could I have been one of the people in the video? It’s possible.
I’m a firm believer that we are defined by the choices we make. These people have made new choices and they are to be applauded. But their poor choices are right there, on their faces and their bodies; they are going to have work harder to dispel peoples’ perception of them. They chose a hard road to begin with and now they’ve chosen a road that will be even harder.
The next time you walk down the street and see someone who looks like these people coming toward you, try to remember that person is also a child of God. And that there but for the grace of God go I.