“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’ Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.'” Lamentations 3:17-24
Last August I strolled into a tattoo parlor wearing a 4 month old while pushing twin 3 year olds in a double stroller. You should have seen the tattoo artists’ faces when we walked through that door. The twins immediately hopped out and ran to the large posterboards full of stock tattoo photos. Praise the Lord, they quickly found the Disney characters page and entertained each other by picking out the ones they liked best.
The feeling in the room was awkward at best. The guys didn’t know what to make of my entourage, let alone this southern mama wanting a tattoo.
I had made a consultation appointment with a guy named Steve and well, his co-workers informed me that Steve wasn’t there. Here’s the deal. I’m not really sure if Steve just wasn’t there, or if he just saw our crew and got wildly scared of my posse ran out the back door.
Either way, this mama didn’t make her babies miss their afternoon naps for nothing. So I coerced one of the other gentlemen to chat with me about tattoos.
I know nothing about tattoos, so I was baffled when the guy laughed at me for wanting eight verses from Lamentations 3 to fit on a 1” x 3” area on my wrist in tiny cursive script.
“Sweetheart,” he condescendingly said, “this is why we hate pinterest tattoos.” And then he and the other guys laughed.
Not offended (or ashamed) in the least, I continued my list of ridiculous questions and the kind artist who chatted with me encouraged me to shorten my verse or choose a different location. And at the end of it all I left without a clear vision of what I wanted and a strong dislike for that tattoo studio. So back to the minivan and creative drawing board I went, but I couldn’t get Lamentations 3 out of my head.
You see, during my season of suffering I spent a lot of time in Psalms and Lamentations. But Lamentations 3 quickly became my favorite. It gave me the freedom to grieve and suffer and still cling to hope.
There was something about verses 17-24 that resonated deep within; they were like a balm to my weary soul. If you had stopped by my house during those really hard weeks, you would have seen post-its everywhere, a 3×5 notecard taped to my kitchen window, one leaning against my bathroom sink faucet, one by my nightstand and heaven knows where else. Looking back, it was a little much, but I had these words plastered all over my home, because I desperately needed to believe them in my heart.
Verses 21-24 are often popular to quote, but I love them because they are birthed out of deep guttural suffering. Most people ignore the first 20 verses and jump right into the steadfast love of the Lord and declarations of hope, but those declarations couldn’t have happened without the despair that occurred in the beginning.
And I can say the same about my own life.
Before suffering I gave the Lord lip service on Sundays during worship “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, blessed be Your name.” And I might have even shed a sentimental tear or two while naively proclaiming “It is well with my soul.”
But when He took away, suffering gave those lyrics a whole new meaning. And instead of mindlessly singing the right words, I found freedom in my brokenness to sing and cry and weep and lament and still proclaim that He is good and that His steadfast love endures forever. My heart shifted from knowing these facts about who God is in suffering to knowing personally the God who is close to the brokenhearted. I became closely acquainted with YAHWEH, the God who restores what the locusts destroyed. I had hope in the God who makes the blind see and the deaf hear. And I rejoiced in the God who takes away our despair and gives us gladness.
Suffering devoured a lot in my life and I still have a few wounds, but every single one of them points to His goodness.
Lamentations 3 set me free and that’s why I wanted the whole dang chapter on my wrist, but alas I couldn’t. So I picked the phrase I wanted to remind me of both the beauty and the sorrow. I wanted a tattoo that would not only point me to His steadfast love, but to the grief that taught me how to hope.
I strolled into Travis’s tattoo studio a month ago during Holy Week. It was completely different than my first attempt months prior. Travis was a kind soul and patient with my many requests. The first time I met him I brought Jude. He graciously handed him a cup to play with and let him crawl all over the studio. He seemed to be unfazed by my crazy and my kid’s crazy.
I liked this guy.
His office was covered in original art, mostly done by him. The whole vibe of the place was real chill. We talked about his kids and then we didn’t talk at all. And in the silence he made a physical mark on my wrist that points to a spiritual marking.
The Lord is my portion.
In seasons of plenty. In seasons of sorrow. Jesus. Only Jesus. Yahweh is my portion.