I got a tattoo this weekend.
It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for some time, and it’s certainly not anything I rushed into. After years of thinking about it, I finally got up the nerve to design my ink and find an artist. And so on Saturday afternoon I had the words “Благослови душа моя Господа” inscribed into my chest in black ink: “O bless the Lord, my soul.”
My decision has raised a couple of eyebrows, but it’s also garnered a watershed of support from friends. Why would I do something like this? Well, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s been almost a year since I came out and walked through the ensuing divorce. And the last year has been a journey of healing and re-centering of my identity that I really never expected I’d ever face in my life, and undoubtedly it has been one of the most challenging and yet uplifting periods of time in my life. As I’ve mentioned previously, when the bottom dropped out of my life and nothing seemed to be immune from falling into the abyss, the only thing that remained was the presence of God, and the only thing that I could do was bless the Lord.
Why Russian, then? I owe the fact that I’m still alive and in my right mind today largely to a dear friend of mine, an Orthodox priest who is a fellow Slavophile. So my choice of language is a tacit tribute to his ministry and to the Orthodox spirituality which he showed me that helped me maintain my grip on sanity.
In a certain sense, this tattoo has a sacramental character: an outward and visible sign of an inward transformation. I am not the same person I was a year ago. I was then still living in fear, and indeed to escape that fear I had to enter into the depths of it and live it out. A lot of my old ways of thinking, of knowing, of living died when I finally let go of the fearsome grip I had on my tightly constructed facade and stepped out into the light of day. Stepping into that light meant letting go of safety; it meant letting go of the lie-founded patterns of hiding and shame that I knew, and instead embracing the day-brilliant and flaming truth of God. It was another conversion, part of the life-long conversion to the image of Christ in me. And as I continue to put old ways of thinking, those childish ways, behind me, I will continue being converted to Christ. The call of the Church is to embrace this conversion and facilitate it–not a conversion to any way of political affiliation, dogmatic assertion, or social obedience; no, not at all. The conversion that the Church must recover and facilitate through her mission and ministry is the conversion to live as the glory of God, humans fully alive and living fully in the divine light unto which Christ leads us daily.
And that’s something that should cause a soul to bless the Lord.