What Would Jesus Tattoo?

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My husband and I had planned a quiet Friday evening at home. I didn't expect to end up—of all places—at a tattoo parlor.

Then my daugher called.

“Hi, love,” I said. My daughter's personality is easy to imagine: think pink, Disney princess sheets, and acrylic nails. Since she started school at a private Christian university, my daughter and I have burned up more cell minutes than a New York stock trader.

“Mom, Jamie can't go,” she said. “And if I don’t go, I’ll lose my deposit. What do I do?”

I knew she had planned this appointment for months. When she paid the deposit and set a date, she’d been as giddy as a first grader in pigtails. I could hear the disappointment in her voice.

“Call the place back and see if you can reschedule later,” I said. “If you can’t, I’ll go with you.”

Disappointment is perhaps the most underrated emotion. Grief gets its due. Anger gets our attention. But disappointment is reduced to a shrug—until we hear it in the voice of one we love. From a balloon grabbed by wind to tears following a failed audition, I’ve never gotten past the lump-in-the-throat, knotted stomach response when my daughters face disappointment.

For the record, we’re not a tattoo kind of family. We’re more the 1950s Ozzie & Harriett family: a Ph.D. dad who’s more Brooks Brothers than bohemian; a writer mom who shuttles kids to voice lessons and soccer games in the minivan. And our daughter is no more the typical tattoo parlor clientele than I am. She’s traditional to the core, dressing more like a TV anchor than a college kid.

But I didn’t want my daughter spending a Friday night in a tattoo parlor alone. So we went to Leviticus Tattoos together. My petite, prim, Southern-Baptist-to-the-core grandmother would have called any tattoo parlor a “den of iniquity.” I did find some humor in the name of the place. At least there was something biblical about a name like “Leviticus.”

Standing in that most unlikely of places, I was once again—as I had been since her birth—being a witness to her life. Watching as she worked intently with the tattoo artist to get the design right, I was seeing the little girl I’d watched at concerts and school plays, at Girl Scouts and formal dances. I could have said no. I could have voiced strong disapproval, and I know she would have canceled. But the choice for me was clear and the moment of decision transparent. I chose to live out my calling as her mom by standing in a tattoo parlor honoring her choice, letting her live her life, somehow knowing if Jesus had been her mom, he would have done the same.

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