Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Commencement: You go, girl

The speaker was really very good that year; the pomp and circumstance was, as always, regal; the spectacle--all those robed faculty and grads--proud and worthy.

I've attended more than my share of college commencements, so I won't be faulted for looking around some. Besides, my appointed seat was far, far to the left of the speaker and the college pres. I was in the first row, staring up at the graduates' feet since they were on just in front of me, up on the stage.

This young grad's tattoo was right smack dab in front of my eyes: "Walk By Faith." A dreamy butterfly sits atop a sweet tendril of beneficent ivy, quite the creation. She must have been under the needle for a while.

 means beginning, and graduations are--a new moment in time for those who are leaving the academic nest.

A Christian college, like the one where I worked, hopes and prays its grads will be tattooed by their education here, in just about exactly the way this young lady's right foot is, with some statement of faith that feels, like this one, part-promise and part-command. The young lady with the tattoed foot took the college's faith mantra--"every square inch"--and brandished it in a way few of her profs, experts in the field, had ever thought of.

There it was, right and front of me, like forever almost.

Women have painted their toenails for hundreds of years, but the juxtaposition was somehow enough to make me giggle. "Walk by faith," it promises, but keep your toenails pink. And what about those slivery-heeled flip-flops? An oxymoron almost, but a real fashion statement. I bet she took one look at those on the rack, and told herself she couldn't leave the store without 'em. 

Those sweet feet drew me back into the old baffling biblical line about "be yet in, but not of," for there's something almost mysteriously compelling about this young lady's bold right foot. Is that tattoo "of the world"? Most certainly is, as much an accessory as the well-heeled flip-flops and the flaring toenails. If it's just pretty, it's sinful, saith Elijah, the old man who sat there staring at that foot.

Thoreau says he would rather that people wore tattoos than a half-dozen different shirts because a tattoo is for all time, and a tux--or a graduation gown--isn't.  He had a point.

Here's what I thought: give the tattooed girl forty years and her ankles won't be as slim, nor her feet be so tan and darling. She'll likely drop the toenail polish, but the tattoo will still be there, fuzzier maybe, but it'll still be there, no matter how frumpy the shoes.

Good for her, I'm thinking.

Then again, that tattoo reminded me of her whole generation, young people immensely spiritual and immensely drawn to the things of this world--almost as if Christ had never said word about the impossibility of serving two masters. Does she really believe that cute little tattoo is a testimony? Or was it just something she got because she wanted one and she knew her old man wouldn't hit the roof if it saluted something in the Bible?

"Moral therapeutic deism," researchers called it back then, the often sketchy faith of her entire generation. They know faith has something to do with being good, and also that it's good for them, like spinach--and at the heart of it is a God, sort of.  "Sure I'm a Christian--read my t-shirt! See this tattoo I got down here? And I got another one, just as nice, on my tush. John 3:16."

I know--I'm a grumpy old man, but I still wonder whether "walk by faith" is the best thing I saw all morning at that college graduation or the worst?

She was cute, this girl--and, when it comes right down to it, so were her feet. Maybe a little silly, too, tattooed like that, but then, aren't we all a little silly sometime or other? Shouldn't Christians be a little silly?

Besides, they say you can get 'em taken off these days, those tatoos. But then would removing it belie it's testimony?  I don't know.

God almighty will have his way with her, just as he has his way with all of us, tattooed or not, barn coats or mink stoles, shirts or skins. It's his world, and we're his people.

All of that's four years ago already. I hoped she's still saying it, wherever she puts it. 

Go ahead and walk by faith, lady, I should have said.  

You go, girl.

An old post from 2010, from Commencement. There's another today.


Anonymous said...

Wow...another great one!
I should have read this first.
On the journey, by the way,
keeping "in step with the Spirit."
(Gal 5:25) TY

Anonymous said...

I thought it was cute and classy. I am not sure how I feel about tattoos either, but am thankful it was a great message that speaks truth.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that my body was a temple of the Holy Spirit and if my body was created by God, I figured I didn't need to do any permanent re-decorating. No tattoos for me.