See, I have a tattoo
Exodus 24:12(MSG): God said to Moses, “Climb higher up the mountain and wait there for me; I ‘ll give you tablets of stone, the teachings and commandments that I’ve written to instruct them”
Isaiah 49:15-16(MSG): Can a woman forget her nursing child? Will she have no compassion on the child from her womb? Although mothers may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Your walls are always in my presence.
John 10:28-30 (MSG): I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
I am fascinated by stories passed down from generation to generation. I love especially our ancestral stories, the Tainos, the Boricuas, the Afrikan. My grandmother used to tell the story of how we came to the Island of Puerto Rico “we walked from Venezuela, touching the ground of each island in the Caribbean until we had no other island to go to”. I remember listening to similar stories in Jamaica “our ancestors walked from the Surinam to each island in the Caribbean”. What a powerful testimony of survival, of a people whose journey took them from land to land until finally landing in the place they could call home!
I will never forget the power of the story of my people, the people of God. I love the manner in which individuals tell their stories, the sad and the happy ones. If its not because of the stories we have heard we might believe that we are not good enough.
Like the Israelites in those Bible verses, we could be confused enough to believe that God has abandoned, renounced, given up, or forgotten us. Instead, God has indicated not only that we are God’s Glory, but that God cares about us. Each one of us!
Several years ago I had the privilege of listening to a story of pain and joy: A woman came to our church full of tattoos. I remember how much she tried to hide them, when I asked the reason she told her story, each tattoo represented a memory of pain, of abandonment, a story of rejection “because I am a woman and a lesbian… no church will welcome me”. Using her story I preached from the verse “I engraved you in the palm of my hand”. And that day I asked her to share her story and the meaning of each of her tattoos… what a powerful testimony! A story of reconciliation, a story of the love of God that “sees” each one of us.”
According to Webster, seeing “relates to our ability to perceive with our eyes; detect or distinguish, to become visually or mentally aware of something; to recognize or understand as being distinct or different; to imagine something as acceptable, to have insight.” There is the need to look INTENTIONALLY into what we are seeing. And then there is the word “ENGRAVED”. In Hebrew the word used is haqaq, meaning to mark out, inscribe, portray; some might say, a picture of you and me engraved on the hands of God.
God’s love is so powerful that we are each engraved in the Palms of God’s Hands FOR-EVER! The text says, “I have engraved you.” This shook me! God has engraved not my name, but rather everything that I am: my person, my image, my case, my circumstances, my sins, my temptations, my weaknesses, my desires, my works, my doubts, the moments I lack faith, my pain, my sorrow, my EVERYTHING, ALL THAT CONCERNS ME. It is like God saying “I have put YOU ALTOGETHER HERE in front of me to remember YOU!” (Charles Spurgeon)
Now that we know that God has US engraved/tattooed on God’s own Hand because of a deep love for each of us… close your eyes and imagine yourself wrapped tightly and hidden securely, tucked away in the palm of the unfailing hand of God? No enemy can find you; you are hidden as in a cleft of a rock. The hand of God is more than enough to keep you in your time of distress. And, as a reminder, your image is permanently engraved in God’s palm. John 10:28 says: “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” “nadie los arrebatará de mi mano.” The text is clear, no one, absolutely nobody can SEPARATE, SNATCH, STEAL, REMOVE, ANY OF US FROM GOD’S HAND: no matter our immigration or migration status, our sexual preferences, or nationality.
Prayer: Eternal One. Silence from whom my words come; Questioner from whom my questions arise; Lover of whom all my loves are hints; Disturber in whom alone I find my rest; Mystery in whose depths I find healing and myself; Enfold me now in your presence Restore to me your peace; Renew me through your power; And ground me in your grace. AMEN! (Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace – “Ground Me in Your Grace”)
The Rev. Dr. MARITZA A. DE GONZALEZ is Co-Pastor of Manantial de Gracia “Spring of Grace” in West Hartford, CT. She also serves on Leadership Team for UCC’s Proyecto Encuentros de Gracia y Bienvenida.