Branded with His Love

Over a year ago, I found myself penning a single cross on my left wrist daily. Some former cutters do this to show they are now transformed into a new creation in Christ. I began doing it for a different reason.

I wanted a daily reminder that it’s ok to be broken, imperfect. That Christ came to allow Himself to be broken for me. That somehow He presses into my broken mess and brings something beautiful out of it.

“And Jesus took the bread and broke it, saying this is my body, take and eat. “ Matt. 26:26

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:23

The seed must break open and die for the plant to come forth. The plant bears the fruit of the grain that must be threshed and then crushed to make the bread. The bread must be broken for us to receive life.

In Jesus’ brokeness is where I find healing, wholeness.

Some might say that I’m going through a mid-life crisis.

For my birthday this year, I decided to make my penned artwork a permanent part of me. If you would have told me two years ago that I would’ve set foot in a tattoo parlor, much less actually subjected myself to a needle, I would’ve thought you were a little off upstairs. Ok. Maybe a lot off upstairs.

There was even a time, I would’ve judged someone with a tattoo, or at least felt uncomfortable with being around them. Drinking. Dancing. Yep. All of those things made me really uncomfortable.

I was raised a good Southern Baptist girl after all. Rules, and lots of them.

I remember being afraid of being in a movie theatre when the rapture happened. I’d surely get left behind.

Please hear me say that any of those in excess, even food, I believe is not good or pleasing to God. Papa loves us and wants us to come to Him for fulfillment and wholeness, rather than look an idol to comfort us.

Two of my trusted friends even challenged me on the tattoo idea. My husband couldn’t understand the my new desire for one either. All I know is something inside me wanted a permanent picture of what God is doing in my heart. I wanted  it to be a picture that became a part of me.

I went to scriptures to see what Papa really had to say about it. Was it evil as I had been taught?

Two verses in particular really spoke to me.  “Father has our names tattooed on his hand” Isaiah 49:16, and “He has branded us with His love as his own.” Ephesians 4:30

On a personal level though, I asked Him what this was about for me. I heard Him gently say, “It’s my brand of love on you.”

The night before I was to have it done, I was looking online at different cross ideas to see what I really wanted. You would’ve thought I’d have nailed that down a lot sooner.

As I was looking, I heard Papa say to my heart, “I want you to have a cross made out of roses.”

The very next picture I came upon was a cross with a large rose in the center.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I always want you to remember that I make beautiful things out of your broken and surrendered life.” He answered.

I was undone.

Roses have many meanings for me as well. The Rose of Sharon for example grows in the most difficult of places, but is one of the most beautiful flowers. So, for Him to say He wanted it out of roses brought me to tears.

The following day, I met my friend who was to go with me to offer encouragement, and get a new tat herself. It’s always good to have a cheerleader who’s willing to jump in the chair herself.

We followed GPS to the location, a place in an old warehouse in the middle of nowhere. There was a skeleton sitting in a chair as their curb appeal. If it hadn’t been for my faithful companion, I’d have chickened out.

As I stood in the middle of the tattoo parlor, looking around in disbelief that I was even in this kind of establishment, I felt the presence of the Lord surround me. His gentle spirit was right there. My artist, a believer, began chatting about the last woman he had who couldn’t take the pain.

My friend went first and managed to give me a smile to reassure me. Then came my turn.

So, I hopped in the chair, laid my wrist up on his table, and let this man draw a beautiful design of a cross made out of roses on my wrist.

One of the hardest things about walking out of extreme abuse is being able to see who God has made you be outside of it. So many times, the trauma still colors my lens, and I look at myself as a broken mess. When I’m working through my emotions and my the reactions still feel very extreme, its so easy to feel discouraged like I’ve not changed or made progress.

Then I look at my wrist, and I see the image of surrendered, suffering love, and the beauty He is creating out of it.

I found myself struggling through some really tough memories and emotions this week. It took my breath away. Fear asphyxiates you.

The very next day after trying to work through the lies I had believed, I was supposed to be a part of a special prayer event across our state. To say I didn’t feel qualified is a gross understatement. So, I argued with God questioning my involvement.

Papa, of course, corrected me and sent me on my way to be part of it. When it was over, I walked on our church property to a place that has a pond and small bridge over one end of it. As I came close to the bridge, I heard “Stop”.

I did for a second, and then continued to walk. Again, I heard “Stop”.

So, I fully obeyed this time.

Immediately, a hawk took flight. He swooped down over my head, and perched in front of me. He then took flight again and surfed the airwaves above me.

As the bird flew off, I heard Papa say gently, “Don’t ever mix up who you are with what you’ve been through.”

On the one hand, we are all broken. But our brokenness can become something whole and beautiful when surrendered to the Master’s loving hands. He does make beautiful things out of our surrendered, broken places.

Sometimes, that means pressing into the pain of it with Him. Pain is not bad. It’s just an indicator that something is wrong. When we allow him into it with us, He will bring truth in love that will heal the deepest wound.

He also wants us to remember that who He has created us to be in Him and who He is, is not the same as what we’ve been through.

As we come to believe the truth about who God says we are, the lies that were told us in the dark lose their hold. We can walk in freedom.

I don’t know the timetable of when I will finally, completely believe the truth. I think there may always be some brokenness in me this side of heaven. And that’s ok. Because every time I take my broken places to Him, He makes beautiful things out of it.

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