Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Conversations From the Tattoo Shop

Its probably no surprise to anyone the title of this post; I get tattoo's and therefore I spend time in the tattoo shop.  If you have never been to a tattoo shop you are missing out!  There are some crazy people in there; and I mean literally crazy (there are also some amazing people with great hearts in there).  Although that is not the focus of this post I had to start it off that way because I think this will become a more common topic I write about.

The main focus of this post is something that has stuck in my mind from my last tattoo sitting.
It was late on a Saturday night and I was sitting in the chair being tattooed.  My artist was working on the top angel tattooed on my arm, more my shoulder, and I was talking with a female who was sitting in the room waiting for my artist, Johnny, to finish the tattoo.  Johnny loves to tell people that I am a pastor and that he tattoo's me; I think its cool he is stoked on it and I love the guy.  Well this lady and I began to talk about church and God and where she is at with Jesus.  She told me she went to church when she was young and was super connected.  She mentioned that she went to the summer camps and winter camps and it sounded like she enjoyed them in her tone of voice but something happened after high school that caused her to leave the church (we never got to what happened).

So while Johnny and I were talking about how to finish up the bottom of my arm I shared I only want to do "half sleeves" because I preach in the big room at church and don't want to turn people off to Jesus and the hope in Christ because I have tattoo's. 
The lady looked at me and said something to the effect of "Its because people will judge you huh?"

That line has stuck in my head the last 4 days and I can't stop thinking about it.  Is the church really just known for being a place that judges people?  It broke my heart to hear that; I grew up in a church that judged me for being a skateboarder and snowboarder.  I was lumped in a category where the majority of the thought is that "those people do drugs" so I just did drugs because I was treated that way.  I wonder if something to a similar effect happened to her and caused her to leave the church; maybe I will see her again and find out.

As for me; I have come to the conclusion that I have no desire to get full sleeves on my arms because I do a good deal of overseas missions and tattoo's are not as acceptable overseas as they are in the States. 

I would love to hear thoughts, if you have any, of how we, the church, can be a place that lacks condemnation and promotes love and grace because if all we are known for is judgment then we are in trouble.


Y said...

I think listening to people's stories helps promote love and compassion. I joined a small group at church after I moved to a new community as a single person. Years earlier I had been widowed through cancer and was really struggling to live as a single mom and woman. I wasn't sure I'd really fit in. Most groups are either all marrieds or all singles with no kids. I felt like something in between. Another couple there felt the same way. Both the man and the woman were divorced with children and were now living together trying to put their lives back together again. They thought for sure they'd be booted from a church group for that. I wasn't sure what to think at first. Then I heard their stories and from my own experience knew how hard it was to raise kids alone. Instead of judgement, I then felt compassion for them. The group welcomed them (and me) and eventually they got married. They really thanked the group for supporting them and credited them for helping them to try the marriage thing again. Eventually, I got married too and though I bumbled my way through as a single mom trying to date, the group listened and did what they could to help. People have reasons for why they do things. Instead of wagging the finger and saying, "That's wrong" I think it's good to listen and get an idea of the bigger picture. Sometimes understanding why can help you help someone take a step closer to Jesus and His ways. I don't think judgement does that. Judgement holds people away at arms length. Maybe that's why church people choose it so much. It's way easier and less time consuming than spending time with people, hearing them and then assisting them if possible.

Jenna D'Anne said...

dude! I agree... the church points more at the sin of oneself then trying to help work through things in their lives to help them overcome areas in someones life. I've talked to many people who are turned away from “church” because Christians are "hypocrites" they come in on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights with a smile on like everything is okay and they are doing exactly the opposite every other day of the week.(drinking, promiscuity, that sorta thing) It is sad to hear stories that we, as Christ followers, turn people away from Truth because of our own actions and the way we point fingers and pick out everyone else's flaws. It's kinda like the story of the prostitute woman when they brought her before Jesus to get stoned and they were saying all these things to her and Jesus said He who is without sin among you cast the first stone... they dropped their stones and left.. then Jesus says where are your condemners? Go and sin no more... and it is similar to that lady I think or even you.. "Categorized" or the lady may have gotten a bitter taste from church and has been turned away ever since.. grieves me to know that we do that to people when their eternal salvation rests in our hands... and me as a youth pastor deal with situations like that all the time. One young person comes one week, gets looked at wrong said about wrong and never see him/her again. But our idea of “church” is so stuck inside the 4 walls... instead of us being the church and building the church everywhere we go (tattoo parlor) or reaching out at Starbucks. I don’t know if that made sense.. just some thoughts thrown out there! :) bless you Neal.

Neal Benson said...

I appreciate the thoughts on this. I'm glad to know I'm not the only person struggling with this topic. I think we the Church (with a big C) need to be more intentional at saying something like "I'm screwed up too! You're not the only one trying to figure out life". Instead of quoting Bible verses and trying to make ourselves feel good. I want to live like Matthew 5:13-16 where Jesus talks about just letting your light shine so people see your good works and follow God.

Y said...

It's good when Christians come to the place where they realize they are screwed up too. I don't think I really realized it until my husband died of cancer and I went through years of hard times. Before that, I had been a model Christian from a devout family living a rather charmed life. I made mistakes in the lean years because it was difficult, a lot more difficult than my life had been up until that point. I then began to see why people choose the ways they do. Sometimes they've had really crummy pasts, other times the funds are really low and sometimes they're lonely and struggling and not sure which way is up anymore. I'm not happy I went through hard years but it did help me to see things differently than before. If all you ever hob-nob with are the nice people at church, you may not get a very good picture of reality. Church people do tend to huddle with each other and exclude themselves from people on the outside. That's when perspective gets off. I think it's good you're associating with non-church people. Us churchies need to find ways to do that more. We need to be the sweet aroma of Christ in all the ordinary settings of life but we tend to save that just for Sunday mornings at church and then live a lot like everyone else the rest of the time except that we do all of our activities only with other churchies. I'm not excluding myself from the problem. I find it hard to befriend people who aren't Christians. Sometimes it's hard to find common ground.