I get asked a lot if there is a story behind my tattoo. It is something close to my heart, so I thought I would explain. It is a little piece of my journey and has a huge emotional connection for me!
First, I must admit, I have always secretly wanted a tattoo! However, growing up thinking a little mascara would send you straight to hell, I obviously never got up the nerve to get one until I was 34 years old! Now that I do have one, I can see where people say they are addicting! I am constantly trying to come up with another meaningful, cutsie saying or picture for my ankle. If anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears!
While studying out the teachings of my previous church, I started to realize how much like the Jewish-Christian churches of the New Testament they are. Meaning, Paul wrote his letters contained in the New Testament specifically to to certain congregations. (Corinthians to the church in Corinth, Ephesians to the church in Ephesus and so on) Some of these churches were made up primarily of people who had previously been important scholars and dignitaries of their traditional Jewish culture. They were Jews that were turned Christian after hearing about Jesus. Some of these new converts were trying to pass on their Jewish laws and traditions to the new Gentile Christians.
Paul spends much time in his letters addressing these people. As he had been one of them in his pre-Christ life, he could relate to them on a very specific level and he does so throughout much of the New Testament. The book of Galatians is a prime example.
The more I tried to understand the rules and traditions set before me by my church organization, the more I realized just how much Paul would have disapproved of my church’s teachings.
I have heard many persuasive arguments both for and against the law of the Old Testament, but the truth of the matter is, Christ died so we could be free from the law.
Does this mean we can sin without consequence? Of course not. But upholding man made traditions doesn’t mean you aren’t sinning and by not following the same traditions it doesn’t mean you are.
In the United Pentecostal Church, someone’s holiness is judged by their outward appearance. Their clothing choices and their hairstyles are recognized as “holiness standards” when in all reality, nothing about us humans is holy or righteous but Jesus and His Spirit that lives in us. The Bible says our own righteousness is like filthy rags. Dressing a certain way and following other man made rules will not make God like us any more or less. Looking back now I realize how futile that endeavor really is.
While all of these revelations were hitting me, a specific verse kept popping up over and over, Galatians 2:21. I think this verse says it so eloquently and without further need of explanation:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Or, if you mesh different Bible versions together (Jen 1:1) it can read even more plainly:
I do not reject the grace of God, for if righteousness were obtained through the law, then Christ died for no reason.
Let that sink in for a moment. If there were anything we could do, say or wear that could help make us righteous at all, then Christ died for no reason! Wow! How incredibly arrogant and misguided of me to think for a second there was anything I could do myself that would even come close to the effect Jesus’s sacrifice has on my salvation!
So, one day when I was driving home from work pondering on this revelation I decided to permanently remind myself of the burden that had been lifted off my shoulders. I had that scripture reference placed in a spot I could look at it often and remember how amazing God is and how much He loves me and that I no longer have to carry the burden of my own righteousness!
The leaf under the scripture is a replica of the first necklace my husband got to buy me! Sixteen years after we got married, he finally was able to buy me a piece of jewelry other than my wedding rings! It was a beautiful gold leaf necklace with the quote enclosed “turning over a new leaf”. It was perfect!
So now everytime I look at my wrist I remember how God revealed that scripture to me and helped us turn over a new leaf and begin life again! Or begin life in general! I am so free and happy now that I am not constantly carrying the unnecessary burden of righteousness it is life changing!
(Insert happy dance!)