Story of a Tattooed Christian

This 23 year old woman shares the most amazing reason for why she wants to wear her heart on her sleeve.

Photo Credit: Heather WilkingIt seems like tattoos are everywhere you look these days, worn by everyone from the guy on a motorcycle to the mom driving a minivan, the criminal behind bars or the pastor at the pulpit.

Now I’m a person who could be considered fairly “tatted up.” I got my first tattoo on my arm when I was 20 years old, and I got my second tattoo on my ribs when I was 21 years old. Now I’m 23 years old, and I still have 2 tattoos… However, my first tattoo has grown substantially in the past 9 months. What started as a relatively small tattoo on my wrist has now become a full sleeve on my left arm.

DSC02367As a Christian, I take the decision to permanently mark my body very seriously… or any decision for that matter. After all, my life is not my own. It was bought at a high price by Jesus Christ on the cross, and I am accountable to Him for what I do with it. So with that in mind, I’d like to share with you the process and heart behind my decision to do a full sleeve.

My tattoo rules:

  •  I will not get anything tattooed on my body unless it is an expression of my faith in Jesus Christ. This is the one and only thing that I know I won’t regret someday, because unlike the other things that I think are important in my life right now, I know that the importance of my faith will never diminish.
  • The word or idea always needs to precede the desire to get a tattoo. What I mean is that it’s never about the art, it’s about the meaning behind the art.
  • The heart behind my tattoos:

    I have 2 main motivations behind getting tattoos; they are personal reminders and conversation starters. They remind me of lessons I’ve learned and choices I’ve made, and they serve as a way to start the conversations in life that truly matter. My decision to do a full sleeve was birthed from a desire to take some of the most important aspects of my faith (which are also the ones I’m most prone to forget) and present them in a way that will accomplish my 2 goals; continually renew my own mind back to the truth, and open doors for me to share my faith… doors that may otherwise never be opened.

    Renewing my mind:

    I love the permanence of tattoos. I am currently in the process of recovering and healing from years of letting lies and destructive thought patterns control my life. My mind can be a dangerous place to be at times, and I’ve found that when the darkness starts to creep in it can be hard for me to keep my eyes focused on the Truth. It has been during those times that I have found it so easy to throw away my hope and my faith. But over the years I’ve found that the one thing I can’t throw away, forget, or ignore is the scripture that I’ve worn on my arm for the past 3 years. During some of my darkest and most confusing times, it is those words that have rung in my ears with almost annoying persistence. DSC02392

    “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

    My tattoos are biblical truth that I choose to speak over my life every single day for as long as I live, reminding me of who I am and Whose I am.

    Sharing my faith:

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    Revelation 12:11 says that we overcome the enemy of our souls by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony. God is writing a story in each of us, and our stories are powerful!

    “Every believer is to bear witness to the atoning sacrifice and its power to save. He is to tell out the doctrine; he is to emphasize it by earnest faith in it; and he is to support it and prove it by his experience of the effect of it. You cannot all speak from the pulpit, but you can all speak for Jesus as opportunity is given you.” – Charles Spurgeon

    I’m an introvert. I’m not terribly outgoing, and I tend to play things close to my chest; safe and comfortable. I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with that, but a while back I felt convicted that in playing it safe with my story, I was robbing God of the glory He deserves.  Out of that conviction came the decision to literally wear my “heart” on my sleeve. You see, my sleeve was designed to illustrate my personal testimony; the story of how God saved me and gave me a new life. It is a vulnerable and uncomfortable thing for me, but there are far more important things in this life than being comfortable.  Now every time someone comments or asks me about my sleeve (which is a lot), it opens the door for another opportunity to share the story that God is writing in me.

    I’ll be honest, on the morning of the day I started the sleeve I got cold feet and considered cancelling my appointment. I was just finishing up a long overnight shift at the gym, and when one of our members came to the desk to check in, my eyes were instantly drawn to his sleeve… and not in a good way. I started to panic. What if mine didn’t turn out well? What if I regretted it? What if I was making a huge mistake? I was about 60 seconds away from curling up in the corner and having a complete meltdown. But in the midst of all the nervous chaos in my mind, there was a whisper of peace and assurance. I was reminded that if this tattoo starts even one conversation that opens the door for me to share my faith with someone who hasn’t been introduced to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, that one conversation erases any regrets I could ever have… that one conversation makes it all worth it.

    The bottom line is that my body is a temple, and it does not belong to me, but to God.


    Scripture tells us that we are to steward the resources that God has blessed us with, including our bodies. To me, that means that anything I do with my body, or do to my body, is an opportunity to glorify my Creator.

    “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

    Personally, I can think of no better use for the skin God gave me than to use it to tell the story of how He rescued me.

    *Huge thank you to my wonderful and talented friends Jeff Stackhouse and Heather Wilking for the photos!

    Melanie Joy
    Melanie is a graduate of Bethel University in St. Paul, and currently resides in Denver. She is a Minnesotan at heart, a Colorado transplant, and above all a grateful recipient of the amazing and undeserved grace of Jesus Christ. Through her experience leading a women’s small group she has developed a budding passion for sharing the life-changing power of God with hurting and broken people, and aspires to a future career in counseling.  Melanie is an avid reader, lifelong learner, music enthusiast, and coffee lover. For more, check out her blog:

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