What God taught me about my tattoo (and my marriage)



I have a tattoo. The summer before we were married, on Peter’s 21st birthday, we got tattoos together. We were so wild. Rebels really. Mine is on my left hip, a scripty heart with the words “Love never fails” along the side.


As the tattoo artist etched the words into my skin I had whimsical thoughts, naive thoughts. We were just about to start another chapter in our life together. We were less than three months from saying “I do.” We had just weathered the longest and strongest storm we had ever faced. I really believed it. Despite what the cynics were saying, despite what the country singers crooned, I really believed our love would never fail. 


The ink was less than a year old when I found out we were pregnant. So unexpected. So unprepared that we really didn’t know how unprepared we really were. I think that was God’s grace and it was better that way. As my stomach bulged and stretched so did the tattoo on my left hip -a real-life metaphor for the love that Peter and I shared. The artwork has never been quite the same.


There have been times, that unlike my former self, (it was only 6 years ago but seems like an entire lifetime ago in so many ways), where I have really doubted whether or not love fails. I have sobbed and screamed that “love is not enough”. I think I screamed it more to myself, or more to my former self, as I sat with a heartache that told me how blind I was to believe that our love would conquer all, that all we needed was love. In the moments of despair and loneliness and stress and exhaustion I would look back and remember how much in love we were the day we got our tattoos. For some reason this time in our life is a benchmark for me. I use it to gauge how in love we are at any period of our lives. At times I have found myself longing for those days. Remembering when it was just us, remembering when we were enough for one another, remembering how good it felt to believe in our love and to feel in love.


I have often made the mistake of believing when it has been a long time since I have felt that we are in love, that we really aren’t in love anymore, or that our love has somehow diminished. So I guess in effect, I have often believed that our love has failed.


And that is probably true.


Our love does fail. It fails pretty much daily. It failed back then too but I guess I chose not to see it.


It is too easy for me to look at our marriage and see the areas where it has failed, disappointed, and changed all too quickly seemingly without my consent.  It is easy for me to look back and long for something that has passed, or to compare us to our former selves. It is easy for me to see where love has failed.


We may not be as googly eyed as we were a mere 6 years ago when we got our tattoos and planned our lives together. We are certainly not as naive. I might be tempted to say we love each other less, that our love has shrunk and shriveled and been partially consumed (or at least distracted) by the demands of life and three young kids. But actually I think our love has grown. It has grown differently than I expected. It looks different than I had envisioned. It has failed more than I had hoped. But I do not look at my stretched out tattoo and scoff at my idea that “love never fails.” Because I know a love that doesn’t fail, that never has, that never will.


It is not the love of my husband, although his love fails far less often than my own, and so many more times than I can recall his love has pointed me to a greater love. It is the love of my God. I have learned nothing more in these past years than that the love of God never fails. When Peter fails me, when I fail him, when I fail myself, when everyone around me is floundering and failing, I know and can say with all certainty that God never will.


I would not have said that with conviction 6 years ago. I honestly, and ashamedly, must admit that I put more faith in Peter than I did in God. I didn’t see it then, but I have learned the hard way over the years that my faith is often misplaced. And I have learned that is the way my own love most fails.


I got the tattoo for Peter as a tribute to our relationship and our love. It still is all those things. But as it peers through the stretch marks that come with three pregnancies in less than four years, it has become more. It tells the story of us in a way that I never intended. It shows how our love has stretched.  It may not always appear as fresh and beautiful as it did to us on that day. And it certainly does fail. But I can look at that tattoo and daily be reminded that God’s love does not. How poetic of God to use the love relationship that the etchings on my skin originally spoke to, to teach me about a more important love relationship. He surely knew as I lay there and got my tattoo, as I confessed my unending love through my vows, that as well meaning as I was, I would come to know failure. He knew I would disappoint and be disappointed. He knew I would question the very words I had once believed so strongly that I wanted them permanently part of me. He knew in time I would come to see new wisdom in those words and find the ink to be a beautiful blessing. And that when I really have the clarity of a right perspective I can even find our failures to be a blessing because they point us to a greater love than our own, a greater strength than our own. In our failures we find victory in Him. As He draws us to Himself He strengthens our bond to one another. 


Peter and I love each other with an eager but clumsy love that often fails.  Our selfishness often trumps our best intentions. We sometimes lose sight that we are on the same team. Sometimes in foolishness we believe the lies of the enemy.  I have learned much in our short marriage, but I have learned nothing more than that God’s love never fails. 


And just as my tattoo is a permanent fixture on my hip, the hip that carries our babies, so too God’s love is steadfast.  The ink on my hip reminds me of the constant presence of God in my life, my constant need for his love, forgiveness and guidance, and a reminder that my marriage was never meant to completely satisfy or fulfill me. It reminds me our marriage is about more than just us. It is about portraying the beauty of salvation and the redemptive work of Christ for His church. And although we fail on a daily basis we will not fail where it really matters. Our love is permanent and true, bound together by the strongest strand of all, the God who, through it all, is always present in our love. And so I can say amidst the strife, the heart aches, the victories, the mundane, the joy,  the frame worthy memories and the memories we only beg to forget, the years that fly but the moments that drag, and the many failures of love, that we know a love that never fails.


I don’t think with age I will regret getting this tattoo.

Updates (aka a potential novel of a blog post)

We have been busy the past few weeks! I keep meaning to post to update/document things but then I never have the opportunity or the energy! Here is a quick smorgasbord of stuff that has been happening around these parts lately!

My sister in law, Rachel, got married on May 4th. Our whole family was in the wedding, except for Roycie Girl. She just got to sit and look adorable.  The weather was perfect-mid 70s, sunny, mild breeze off the lake. Everything went off without any issues and it was beautiful. I was so proud of my flower girl and ring “bear”. They were priceless and perfect and brought me to tears as I stood and watched them walk down the looong aisle. It was so nice to have Peter’s brother and his wife and their kids (both only a couple days or weeks apart from Braxton and Royce) in from out of town for the whole week prior. We hung out a lot, took over a restaurant for dinner, went to the zoo, made smores and had bathes in a back yard mini pool…the kids not the adults. The actual wedding day was filled with lots of fun memories, including my father in law Jim dancing to Gangham style. Unfortunately I was in a closet cleaning up myself and Braxton who were both covered in pee…(it was a long day filled with miscommunication about the last time his diaper was changed…parents of the year!) Hayleigh could not be ripped from the dance floor except for cake. She literally danced the whole time, so much so that at the end she said she was dizzy from everyone wanting to twirl her. It’s tough being the flower girl I guess. Anyway, it was a fun time!

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(rehearsal dinner)
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Congratulations Rachel and Tim!
Royce turned 5 months old the day before the wedding. In so many ways I still feel as though she is my little infant babe still. I guess I view her that way because of how “old” the other two seem. But now in two weeks she will be 6 months old! Seriously?! I finally pulled the excersaucer out a few weeks ago. I figured it was time to put another element in our obstacle course of a living room. the jury is still out on it. She still prefers her bumbo. She also started solids (just cereal) this week. She was so funny how she reacted for the first few bites but from then on she opened her mouth like a champ and ate it all up, even off her bib. Silly girl. She now opens her mouth regularly when she sees us eating. I think she knows we are holding out on her! Her little face just brightens my days. So many times I look at her funny little expressions and just laugh or smile. She is such a joy to me and with each passing day I love her more and more. We are so grateful for our sweet little Roycie.
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(I have to say, she is looking a little like me as a baby in these pictures.)
Mother’s Day was (obviously) this past week. We stuck with our tradition of having both sides of the family over here for brunch after church. The guys always cook and do an awesome job! It is so nice to have both sides of our families in town and even nicer that they get along so well. No awkward conversation starters; Peter and I don’t have to run interference or orchestrate the conversation. It just flows nicely and is always filled with lots of laughs. This is something we don’t take for-granted and are very thankful for. It was a nice Mother’s Day, as always. I am incredibly grateful to be able to be a Mommy and also grateful to have my momma so close by as I take on the challenges and reap the rewards that come with each stage of Mommyhood.
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(at the mother’s day tea at preschool)
Hayleigh also finished up preschool this week! Next week is a final field trip and also a end of the year picnic but officially she is done with her first year of preschool! Ahh! Where did the time go? I feel like I just took her pictures and posted about her first day. Here she is on her last day! We have decided to send her to a different school next year, for a variety of reasons, so she is a little hesitant to say goodbye to her friends from this year. I just can’t believe how fast she is growing up. Preschool has been really good for both of us. When she started (like 2 days ago, right?!) I was saying how excited I was to see how she would change and develop. Now I am looking back at the challenges, victories and growth. Craziness.  I am pretty sure I feel a post all its own regarding that is coming in the near future. I have been meaning to write her a letter anyway. Gotta get on that. :)
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(last day 5/16/13)
If you got to this point of the post you are either very interested in our family or very bored! Thanks for sticking it out!

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