Agape: The Story of My First Tattoo

Today I got my very first tattoo. For those who don’t know, this is not “Jesus fish, upside-down Jesus fish, Jesus fish, pi, and n.” It’s the word agape in original Greek. 
I’ve been thinking about getting this tattoo for awhile – I mean honestly it’s been a couple years. The beginnings of the idea started around when I was 13 – 14. The full idea didn’t really come to me until maybe I was like 16. Until point I was still back-and-forth about exactly what I wanted but I kind of knew that I at least wanted some form of love at the top.

Then at 16 I picked that I wanted the word agape which is the Greek word for love. Agape has two main interpretations that I learned: unconditional, charitable love; and God’s love for us. 1 Corinthians 13 coincides with agape and they are constantly referenced together – in addition this is my favorite chapter of the bible. To me I find this to be part of a description of agape. It also had a lot of meaning to me. 

The original reason for wanting a form of love on my arm was because I needed a reminder to myself. From a very young age I struggled with self-harm. I wanted a subtle reminder that I am better. I also wanted a reminder that above all else God loves me, even if all else in this world fails, thus, agape; God’s unconditional love. Even now, even picturing that tattoo there has helped me not relapse into self-harm. 

Now, it’s that and a reminder of 1 Corinthians 13 I’m very attached to for a couple different reasons. First of all, I’ve always just loved the way that it flows – but that’s not why I wanted it tattooed on me. I want a reminder that I deserve better. I want a reminder to be better. Love is what should drive me, my love for God and my love for my fellow people. 

From my very first boyfriend to my most recent one, I’ve experienced abuse and sexual assault. This is a reminder that how they treated me was not love. The emotional abuse and manipulation that occurred was not love. Trying to convince me to commit suicide isn’t love. Convincing me I was ugly and they were the only ones who would love me… Isn’t love. Being angry at everything I did. Being controlling. Hurting me as a way of gaining control….Whether it was words or physical… That was not love. Calling me lucky that they loved me… Is not love. Love is patient, and it is kind. It does not put down others. It does not look for self-gain. It’s not envy. It’s not about anger. There’s no record of past wrongs to hold over anyone’s head. It protects. It conquers. It does not fail. (4-8) I need to be looking for this. For God’s love to shine through another. That I am better than manipulative people. I need to remember what love is and not get caught up in fake manipulative things. 

It’s a reminder that this is what God’s love for me is. Even if all else fails, this is what God feels towards me. Others will not be perfect. I will not be perfect. But God is. This is a reminder to follow him, to trust him, to love him, and to live my life for the one who loves such an imperfect me. 

But this is also a reminder for me on my actions and feelings towards others – not just how I am loved and should be treated. I also need to remember to treat people right. I need to remember to treat people right. I slip into anger way too much. Sometimes I can be manipulative. Sometimes I hold past wrongs over people’s heads. So I need to be better and I want to be driven by love, not anything else. 

This whole idea had already solidified in my mind by the time I went to work at Pioneer Camp at which I started working with adults with disabilities. Here, they are called agape campers and I realized I have a huge passion for this. They changed my life and it felt like God was just saying, hey stupid, yeah, agape was the right choice for a tattoo. Little by little things have just popped up that have made me certain I wanted this. 

Every once in awhile there’s something new that ties in with this tattoo. 

Bethany

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