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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Tattoo

April 9th, 2007

One of the reasons I enjoy my part-time job selling merchandise at the US Airways Center during Phoenix Suns games is the sheer volume of people who come into our store and walk by in the concourse. I enjoy observing people. Any event that brings nearly 20,000 people to your door means there will be plenty to see.

One thing we see a lot of in the store is tattoos. From the small, understated rose on an ankle to full arm images of mythical dragons. Nicknames on knuckles. Names on necks. Some in multiple colors, some with plain black ink. All applied with a needle. Which is why you won’t find any tattoos on me.

Last week during halftime of the Suns/Mavericks game, a 20-something guy came in the store sporting a tattoo unlike any I’d seen. It was a dandelion. About ten inches long from top to bottom. The kind of dandelion you blow the fluff off of. It was expertly done. Some of the seeds in flight, as if it had just been bumped by a light breeze. But this tattoo also showed the root of the plant, deep into the ground. And where the green stem stopped and the root started, a gray cross section of concrete, smooth on the top and jagged on the bottom. 

I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “There’s got to be a story behind this. What is it?”

He looked at the tattoo and then at me. “Years ago someone asked me what my favorite plant was. I said the first thing that popped into my head. “The weeds that grow through the cracks in the driveway.” It was a random answer, but it kind of stuck with me. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. You know, growing in a hard spot. Perseverance. That kind of thing. So when I decided to get a tattoo I knew exactly what I wanted it to be.”

Pointing to his arm he added, “I just had the concrete added this week. I think it turned out great.” 

It sure did.

Growing in a hard spot. Thriving in difficult circumstances. Blooming where you are planted, even if where you’re planted is an unforgiving rock hard place. There are plenty of days I wish I had the perseverance of a dandelion.

In God’s design you and I are higher in the created order than a dandelion. Though we’re sometimes hard pressed to see it in our rough and tumble world, we are created in the image of God. Psalm 8 says that we were “made a little lower than God” and that He has entrusted us to rule over His creation. All that to say we are very valuable to God and He has a divine purpose for our lives.

And that’s the rub. In the middle of our gut wrenching, heart shredding, head banging hard times, we don’t see the purpose in it. How can anything that hurts so much be for our good? Caring friends might attempt to encourage us with a card that says, “God has a plan for your life”. They mean well. And it’s true. God does have a plan. So we smile and nod and say “thank you”, while our pain thinks about how satisfying it would be to put the entire Hallmark section through a paper shredder, one platitude at a time.

We may know in our head that God has a plan. Psalm 139 says that “all our days were written down in His book before there was yet one of them.” In our hurt, our hearts wonder if He’s looking at the wrong page. Yet the only way we can grow in a hard spot and thrive in difficult circumstances is to remember that every difficulty in our lives is attached to a higher purpose. In God’s economy, our pain is never for free. It’s always attached to the higher purpose of conforming us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ, who suffered all things that you and I might be made complete.

God never promises that our pain will make sense to us. We may die confused. God does promise that everything has a purpose and no experience is wasted. 

So in the middle of our pain, much better to ask “what?” than “why?”. The “why?” may never be answered. Yet the prayer, “God, what will you have me learn from this?” is one He never fails to answer.

Growing in a hard spot. Thriving in difficult circumstances. Blooming where you are planted, even if where you’re planted is an unforgiving rock hard place.

Persevere. Your pain isn’t for free. God is growing something good in you.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” – Romans 8:28-29