Courage, Dear Heart

I got a tattoo.

Yes, me, Maggie. The girl who loves puppies and watching Parenthood on a Friday night. I got a tattoo. It may be the smallest tattoo known to mankind, but it is there and it is real. Sometimes I look down at it, and I rub my index finger across it as if to test that it’s still permanent. (It is.)

I have been wanting this tattoo for more than a year, often drawing it on my wrist to confirm that I like it. On multiple occasions, I was asked by people if my Sharpie doodle was a real tattoo. After months and months, I realized I still liked it and wanted to make it happen.

So after grocery shopping recently, I decided to pop into my local tattoo parlor. The tattoo artists told me they had plenty of availability that evening. Cash only, and we’ll see you tonight, they said. I headed back a few hours later with my sweet friend, Katie. (Thanks, Katie!) I was in and out in about 20 minutes. Needles don’t really scare me, and the process wasn’t painful. I practically blinked and it was over.

I walked out of the tattoo shop beaming and excited about my new ink. I did it. I was officially tatted UP.

My tattoo is three small dots on my inner wrist—representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with me always.

The number three shows up a lot in the Bible. See faith, hope, and love, a series of three. The three times Paul pleaded for the thorn to be removed from his flesh. And, of course, Jesus’ rising from the dead on the third day. I’m also one of three kids. The tattoo is a reminder to me of all of these things, as well as a physical declaration of my identity.

Since getting tattooed, I’ve had four or five strangers notice it and ask me what it means. I’ve told them honestly: I’m a Christian and it’s for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So far everyone’s response has been, Oh that’s cool. Or, I really like it. Or, that’s awesome. None of these strangers are Believers. They might be replying like this simply because they’re surprised and don’t know what else to say. Or they might truly think it's cool. I believe a lot more people in this world are searching for God and the truth found in Jesus Christ than may outwardly admit it. 

These three dots remind me to be courageous.

I have no problem enduring a bit of pain from a needle. And I am happy to tell total strangers about my faith when they ask me about the tattoo. God’s given me the courage to do that. But the courage to abandon my desire to control and follow him wholeheartedly? That courage sometimes still alludes me. Sometimes I’d rather cling to my schedule, my plans, and my busyness than courageously surrender to Him. Okay, most of the time.

You feel me?

It takes courage to say no to my own plans and follow His. It takes courage to stop revering my favorite bloggers and start revering Him. It takes courage to pray for the drunk guy on the street when all I want to do is judge.

God keeps bringing up this idea of courage to me.

I sat on the subway last week while a young man preached the Gospel. As in the legitimate, John 3:16 Gospel. He spoke aloud to the whole train, clear as day, even when a woman rolled her eyes and said, “Alright, already! Oh my God.” He continued talking, explaining everything from Adam and Eve to our sin to Jesus’ dying and rising again. He put it all out there. That takes courage.

I just so happened to be listening to a sermon podcast on courage at the same time.

And when I went to counseling the same night, my counselor suggested I pray for courage.

Courage is a theme for me. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be courageous. I remember reading through the Harry Potter series, hoping I, too, would have been called a Gryffindor because of my bravery. I want to be bold and unafraid.

This blog is a product of that desire. I talk so often about bringing things into the light. I believe we were made to let others into our messes, and, even more so, to let God into them. He already knows all about it anyway—and still He loves us. So I strive to let Him work in the mess and refine my heart in the process.

Theologian John Piper writes,

"Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to help you and save you on account of Christ. An act takes courage if it will likely be painful. The pain may be physical, as in war and rescue operations. Or the pain may be mental as in confrontation and controversy."

It will likely be painful. And probably more painful than the I’m-going-to-ink-three-dots-on-your-wrist sort of pain.

Right now, I’m in a season of my life where I need courage to press into the uncomfortable. God’s been doing a whole lot of healing in me, physically, mentally, and spiritually. He’s renewed me in so many ways. I’m not the same woman I was five, three, or even one year ago. I’ve talked openly about my struggle with an eating disorder—and God has brought significant healing into that area of my life! His work has been slow and gradual, but it has been persistent. Even when I’ve taken steps back, He has propelled me two steps forward. That is a huge praise.

Now it’s going to take some work on my end to continue God’s healing and restoration. He will do it, of this I am confident. But I must be a ready and willing participant. I can finally say I’m ready. I want to live wild and free, not tethered to anxiety, insecurity, or disordered thinking. Those thoughts will come and go, but I know they don’t control me anymore. I’ve tasted the sweet fruit of freedom, and I want more.

The book of Josuha contains my favorite word on courage:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
— Joshua 1:9

I am going into the unknown. That’s scary and uncomfortable. For me, full freedom means kicking any old habits to the curb. Like an annoying ex-boyfriend who just won’t quit: They’ve got to go. Full freedom looks less like having a perfectly scheduled calendar and a five-year plan, and more like days full of space for Him to breath into. Full freedom starts where preconceived notions of what a good Christian life looks like end. And if I’m being honest (as I always want to do with you), full freedom for me means living with a few more pounds on me than I have right now. As a woman who is healthy, full, whole. A woman who values The Lord more than a particular dress size or the way her abs look. A woman who willingly walks as God designed her to, even if it’s scary, unfamiliar, or anxiety-provoking.

Because He looks at me—as He looks at you—and calls us good.

We have to trust in God's declaration and know it's truth that holds more weight than anything we're afraid of. It matters more than our feelings.

It’s going to take me significant courage to push through feelings of instability. What awaits me on the other side of the uncomfortableness and the unfamiliar is good and beautiful. Throughout my life, the things I’ve been most afraid of, whether that was rappelling, traveling internationally, or interning in New York City, ended up being the most worth it. Pushing through the fear was the best thing I could have done. The Lord was with me every step of the way.

He is in all of it. He is with us wherever we go.

Like the tattoo on my wrist, He is there no matter what. Nothing is too big or too small for Him to work in. We cannot scare Him away. As we continue to accept His love and His truth, His Spirit dwells within us. He’s not only a part of our lives, but He is truly the past, the present, and the future lives we live. Rest secure in that.

If you want to talk more about Jesus Christ and faith and what-the-heck-is-all-this-stuffshoot me a message. I love meeting new people, whether virtually or in person, and gabbing about life. 

And if you'd like to know more of my story, you can read my testimony here.

Truly, He makes beautiful things.