Miska turned 35 on Friday. I kept looking at her all weekend, truly mesmerized by her. She has this natural, earthy beauty, this rich soul, this very mysterious way – well, I’m head over heels, as you can tell.

Miska had a bold birthday request: for the two of us to get tattoos (along with our friends, Jules and Corey, though Corey had to bail on us). About five years ago, Miska had a small butterfly tattooed on her lower back, symbolizing for her the new life and beauty God was crafting in her as she moved into her thirties. It is feminine and has such rich meaning, perfect really. For her 35th, she hoped for us to have this experience together, something intimate and bonding, something symbolic.

I probably wouldn’t be classified as the typical tattoo type (okay, we can just do away with “probably”), but I actually might have a little more street cred that you think. Anyway, a while back, we had talked about both of us getting wedding band tattoos, a symbol of permanent love, the commitment of marriage, the way God has joined our souls together.

We didn’t do it, though, and I think the main reason I didn’t was because of my fear of how other people would react (and we all know where this is heading – that’s no reason at all). Tattoos are not an issue in the culture I live or among the people I serve. However, I know there are some who feel (and some with stories and painful experiences to back them up) that tattoos are only for rebellious people who hate God and get stoned and ride the country in a Harley gang and want naked women and skulls plastered on their body. In case you are still wondering, my tattoo had nothing to do with any of that (well, other than the Harley part).

My little ring band tells the world that I am deeply in love with my wife, that the love God has give me for this amazing woman is truly embedded into my person. The ring is also simple, earthy. You might not know this about me, but I’m at least a tad bit granola – and this band just feels raw and masculine, like I could be out in the woods tracking bears and teaching my sons how to navigate the stars and building my family a house from raw timber with my bare hands. I like that; it’s me.

So, there I sat with Lew Hands (yeah, cool, huh?), my tattoo artist, as he carved a little ink into my finger. Multiple people told me man, that’s gonna hurt. It really wasn’t that bad; but then again, I’m tough. I have a tattoo.

15 Replies to “Inked!”

  1. Woohoo! Way to go Winn. It looks awesome. What do Wyatt and Seth have to say about it? Hey, and if you ever decide to tromp off in the woods and build a house with your bare hands, let me know cause I’m in.

    PS All that fresh ink makes me want another one REALLY bad.

  2. Hey Winn, I got something similer when Melissa and I got engaged. The Tatoo Artist really tried to talk me out of getting it done but eventually relented saying “At least black is the easiest color to remove.” Classic!

  3. Winn, that’s a helluva tat – very, very cool! In addition to the bond it symbolizes w/you and the missus, I see it also as a clear message to the world that ink is in your skin – in other words, you’re a writer.

    Ride easy, bru.

  4. Evan, Wyatt and Seth like it. They pretty much just took it in stride, though – not sure what that means : )

    Adam, we’ll show them, won’t we?!

    Danny, indeed I am, as are you.

    John, thanks. Ink is in my skin…and my soul – but you should know, ink runs deep in you as well.

  5. I love all that this deeply symbolizes. I love the picture of you stepping out, risking, and boldly proclaiming love and life.

  6. I cannot think of a more immature thing to do than to mark up one’s body with ink. The culture thinks inking up one’s body is hip. But what about not being conformed to this world? The Lord commanded the Israelites of old not to “print any marks” on them (Lev 19:28. Why? He wanted them to stand apart, pure and holy before the Lord. Look like the world? Think like the world? Be like the world? “Love not the world” (1 John 2:15).


  7. Actually Gaius, most biblical scholars (conservative to liberal) believe that the markings issue in Leviticus was more about the ancient near eastern practice of marking oneself in honor of an idol or false God. Therefore it is less about not conforming to the world and more about not following after another God. If Winn’s tatoo isn’t a tribute to an idol, but rather a celebration of Holy matrimony and the gift God has given him in the form of his wife, then your point is moot.

    If you disagree and you believe that the act, not the heart behind it is the criteria for discerning one’s relation to the world, where is the line exactly? What makes wearing tennis shoes or blue jeans ok? Why is it that driving a car doesn’t make us like “the world” in the same ways as tattoos? I am truly curious. Email me at I would love to have a respectful conversation with you about it.

    ps. I can think of a LOT more childish things than getting a tattoo. 🙂

  8. Hi, Gaius,

    Of course, your reaction is no surprise to me. It is an opinion and belief system I am most familiar with, and (as I mentioned in the post) a large reason why I hesitated for a while – because, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to raise your ire (and “you” being representative of all friends who share your perspective).

    I am curious to know if you consistently apply all such prohibitions offered in Leviticus 19. For instance, do you: refuse to shave your beard? (19:27), abstain from wearing any clothes made of mixed materials like cotton and polyester? (19:19) make certain that any fruit you eat is not from a tree younger than five years old? (19:23-25), hold as spiritual conviction the practice of eating meat cooked any way other than well done? (19:26)

    If you are consistent in all these, I would really love to interact with you about how you live and the impact that makes on your life. I would marvel at your discipline – That would truly be fascinating.

    If you make other choices (as I do), then I think we have some common ground that applying OT code into the New Covenant era requires some work and some recognition of complexity – and, frankly, some personal choices about what Paul calls “debatable issues.” (Rom 14)

    For me, this was not an immature act but an act of love and commitment – and a result of convictions that have formed over years of reflecting on how I understand God to be making his life whole and alive in me.

    Peace, Gaius. Thanks for your comments, even if we disagree.

  9. Friends,

    As to the charge of inconsistent literalism (e.g., If you take Lev 19:28 seriously, do you also avoid wearing polyester clothing, a la Lev 19:19?), your argument is misplaced. First, re-read my comment. The key point is that Lev 19:28 was a charge by the Lord to ancient Israel in order to “mark” them as a holy people. Pagans got tattoos. Israelites didn’t. The same was true for blended fabric, a really beautiful symbol of the purity of God’s OT people. My point was to apply this very worthy spiritual principle to God’s new covenant people. In our culture today, as in the ANE culture, the marking of the skin is a generally heathen practice. Look at the whole tattoo culture. It emphasizes rebellion against authority, glorification of death, and, most grievous, the pagan idea that one can be autonomous over his body. Christians, on the other hand, like Paul, had the audacity to say to their fellow believers, “ye are not your own” (1 Cor 6:19). My point is not a slavishly legalistic interpretation of Leviticus, but a judicious spiritual application of it.

    Your hermeneutic is problematic on several levels. Most grievous is its tendency to be dismissive of the authority of the OT (the old error of Marcion). This leads to a dismissive view of Scripture’s authority in general. The same hermeneutical arguments you used to defend inking up your skin are also used by pro-homosexual practice folk to dismiss the significance of Lev 18:22’s naming of this practice as an “abomination.” This approach also pits the OT against the NT, Jesus against Paul, etc. Thereby, it denies the coherence and authority of the Scriptures.

    If you and your wife want to renew your marriage covenant, why not do that the Biblical way, with words and loving actions. By the way, if this was some deeply significant symbolic deal between the two of you, why did you want to bring along two friends (and why did one bail)? Why was it important to write about it? To gain the “woohoo”s of friends and the designation of being a “wildman”?

    Yes, many things are permitted, but not all are profitable. How does this help you live a quiet and godly life, set apart from the world?

    Of course, I am sure that these additional thoughts, like the first are “no surprise” given my puerile fundamentalistic “belief system” with which you are quite familiar. Nevertheless, here they are.


  10. Dude, my hermeneutic is problematic too! I really should get that looked at.

    Gaius, I know this man very well, and I can assure you his decision to get a tattoo was done out of love for his wife, not to engender the “designation of being a wildman” – although coincidentally he is very much a wildman. Though I absolutely consider Winn godly, I wouldn’t describe him (or many of the other Christian leaders I respect and love) as “quiet.”

    Honestly, Gaius, I was with you until you questioned Winn’s intentions and implied that his decision was a vie for attention – considering you’ve never met Winn and you know for a fact he’s over the age of 15.

  11. Hi again, Gaius.

    You have little grounds on which to rebuke my hermeneutic because you have no idea what my hermeneutic is. I simply asked questions about how you applied these wide-ranging admonitions, trying to understand your hermeneutic (and your answer did little to clear that up). You are flatly mistaken in your charge that I indulge in a Marcionic dismissal of OT authority. At the very most, my questions could only have eluded to the fact that I don’t have problems wearing mixed linens, being clean shaven, or eating fruit from baby trees? Do you? If not (like me), then you are going to have to back up your charge much better than that.

    The point I should have said more plainly is this: distinction from the world is often necessarily related to the particulars of given cultures in given contexts. We actually probably agree on that. We simply disagree on the inherent current cultural connection to tattoos. And I think Romans 14 addresses such impasses fairly plainly.

    I have no issue with your attempt to make a “judicious spiritual application.” Certainly, though, there is a distinction between our attempt to make an application and those places where God clearly says, “You shall not…” Again, the distinction between those two is vast – and Christian humility ought temper our judgment (even if not tempering our conviction).

    In truth, I find your dismissive tone toward my motives and my expressions of love toward my wife arrogant and hurtful. We took friends because our Christian community is beautifully important to us (why do we have friends at our weddings instead of hitting Vegas?). I wrote about it here because it was on my heart, and this act was, for me, a claiming of my identity and a claiming of what Jesus is doing in my heart.

  12. Dear “wildman,”

    It appears I have touched a nerve. What happened to the initial paternal tone of “Thanks for your comments, even if we disagree.”?

    Follow ups:

    Regarding my understanding of your hermeneutic (about which you say I have “no idea”). My understanding of your views is based on what you have written. I find it ironic for you to get prickly here, since in your first response to me you essentially charged me with being a hypocrite for taking Lev 19:28 seriously vis-a-vis Levitical dietary and dress guidelines. You also claimed to know all about my “opinion and belief system,” based on very little evidence. So, you can make judgments about my views, but I can’t do the same about yours?

    On liberty of conscience issues (a la Rom 14). Yes, clearly we disagree. My conviction would be that getting a tattoo is worldly and not in keeping with the Biblical worldview. If this makes me the weaker brother; well, I guess you better not put a stumbling block down before me.

    As for my attitude. Arrogant. Guilty. Pride is a besetting sin. Hurtful. Hardly. OK. You’ve gone ahead and marked up your body. You’re painted (pun intended) into a corner and have to defend/justify this somehow. You put your ideas out there and invited responses. I gave mine. Maybe you should moderate your comments on this blog to filter out “hurtful” comments like mine and keep only the platitudes. It bothers me when people who claim to be thinkers and “writers” have to claim the “you hurt my feelings” defense when someone disagrees with them.

    As regards bringing friends to your inking. Yes, witnesses (the congregation) are common at Christian weddings. But you do not exchanges wedding rings with the witnesses. By the way, the minister also does not “brand” the wedded couple. While on this topic, let’s compare the idea of of your self-invented tattoo ceremony with the Biblical practice of baptism. The Jews and Judaizers wanted to continue the outward marking of the flesh via circumcision. Christians, on the other hand, practiced baptism. They could have given tattoos. Instead they chose an invisible, internal mark to identify believers. Doesn’t this provide a model for us to follow in spiritual matters? Questions: Do you plan to mark up you body at other milestones? Birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Have you ever thought about what that’s gonna look like 30 or so years from now in the Nursing Home? What if God, in his providence, takes you or your wife away, and you desire to remarry in the Lord (1 Cor 7:39)? Sorry, but I remain convinced that inking up one’s body (even a finger) is not prudential.

    Again, I clearly do not think your tattoo is rad or cool. I believe Christians should avoid the outlandish and bizarre extremes of the culture with regard to personal appearance (and yes, tattoos are in the outlandish category). Justin says he would not describe you as “quiet.” But Paul said this is precisely the kind of life we are to lead (cf. 1 Thess 4:11; 2 Thess 3:11-12; 1 Tim 2:2).

    OK, I think I’ve probably said enough. I likely will not post on this again, unless some new angle/argument is put forward.


  13. Thanks for the time you’ve given to this, Gaius. I too think this conversation will offer little fruit in the future. We disagree. There are certainly worse things in the world than that…

    I have open comments because I want people to be free to say what they think. And, in turn, I am free to say what I think and how it lands on me. That is not a defense; it’s just honestly reacting to the direction I felt you took. That’s the way honest conversation works.

    Thanks for dropping in.

    Should you happen to pop in again, I am most curious to know, if Gaius is your real name. If so, (and honestly, I’m curious), how did you get the name? And if not, why a pseudonym?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *