On the week his father graduated from boo camp, my nephew Christian got his first tattoo. My brother Mark, his wife Gretchin and I designed it: Psalm 144:1 “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”
We designed the P to be both a sword and a cross in keeping with the scripture and its meaning. But, this tattoo has meaning that can’t be captured by a simple design. It is a rite of passage, a link between father and son. It expresses both my nephew’s desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and to step out on his own. He wanted to surprise him with it, like a passing nod to say, “Look what we share, look at who I am.”
It was a family affair, this rite of passage. We aided in its design; Christian’s cousin, mother and his mother’s boyfriend all got tattooed on the same day. Texts flew with pictures and updates. As we all shared in the raising of this boy, we also shared in this milestone. None of this, of course, was shared in words, unless you count the one marking his flesh, and in the end, I guess that one sums it all up. He will wear it and people will inquire about it and he will tell its story, but to me it is the behind the scenes story that counts. Mark, Gretchin and I scurrying to bring this desire to fruition, his mom and family lending their unwavering support; the exchange between father and son. There will be some who think this tattoo is about battle. To me it will forever be about service and love.