A common defensive tactic for people who hate to be judged is to judge others first. Beat them to the punch! And because I can be quite witty (and before I was a Christian), I developed a snarky and sarcastic attitude about people I assumed would judge me . . . mainly Christians. In fact, a friend of mine and I had a lot of fun names for these judgmental Christians. My FAVORITE nickname? ”Fiesty Christ-y.”  It still makes me giggle – you should try saying it once. Right now. At your computer. “Fiesty Christ-y.”

The problem is, of course, that Christians are HUMAN and many ARE judgmental. Many of us do judge others and take on the role only God is supposed to play. The really difficult thing is this: most people who do not believe what you believe are going to hear your beliefs as judgment. And so it perpetuates the “us/them” mentality. It’s a tricky, tricky thing because most of the time, when we’re trying to explain our beliefs or even to guide loved ones to the truth, we end up coming across as self-righteous. It is very difficult to communicate truth in LOVE.

The Becoming symbol is a mobius with a cross in the center. I had it designed in honor of my baptism to wear as a symbol of constantly transforming in Christ. I have a mobius tattoo I’d gotten in my 20s, but after I launched the Becoming blog I felt convicted that I should have the tattoo match the symbol; I needed the cross added to the tattoo.   I didn’t really want to add to the tattoo – I have no desire for additional tattooing of my body to be honest – but I knew it was something I needed to do from an integrity standpoint. So, last fall I made an appointment to get the tattoo updated and asked my then-fiancé, Dale, to come with me.

When we arrived, the receptionist was looking at my file notes and kind of snickering when she saw that Moose was my tattoo artist. This should have been my first clue. Moose came up to meet with me and find out what I wanted to have done. I gave him the two-minute version: I got this tattoo (showed it to him), and when I was baptized in 2010, I had a piece of jewelry made that means “Constant Transformation Through Christ,”  and I showed him the jewelry as a reference point. I explained that the jewelry had become a ministry and so now I’d like the tattoo to match the Becoming symbol.

That’s it, that’s all I told him. I didn’t preach to him or go on about my beliefs. He looked amused as we walked to his chair and he asked about the ministry. As I explained the jewelry and blog, I explained that part of the proceeds go young moms in crisis. Before I even got into his chair, he went off about how I should give money to contraception, not moms. From there he talked passionately about men’s natural desires for sex, about how messed up the “church” is, about how judgmental and close-minded people are who don’t agree with abortions and gay marriage. He also somehow threw in there that women don’t think clearly . . . about that time my mind was short-circuiting. This guy, who clearly was feeling defensive about a Christian in his chair, was going to be my tattoo artist?!

When Moose was done with his soliloquy, he looked at me for a reaction and I just smiled tightly and said, “Look, I’m just here for my tattoo.”

”Oh! Well, I didn’t mean to offend you!” said Moose.

Well, that can’t actually be true, can it?  He probably was looking for some sort of reaction from me to confirm the assumptions he’d made about me .. . all because I wanted to put a cross on my body.

Here’s the deal, tattoos hurt. I don’t care what anyone tells you, they do. It feels like a constant bee sting and it’s a major pain to take care of for the following two weeks while it heals. So by the time we left the tattoo parlor, I was MAD. I felt I’d been judged unfairly by someone I was paying to hurt me. The whole thing was just so WEIRD. Part of me wishes I’d been more bold in talking about my beliefs with Moose, but the other part of me wanted to get the tattoo over with and didn’t want the artist any more agitated than he was – because, tattoos are permanent and have I mentioned that they hurt?  Moose also told Dale he was a sucker for getting married. And when he learned that we were staying abstinent until marriage, I think Moose thought we were certifiably nuts. We were like aliens to him.

I did pray while I was in Moose’s chair, but for myself and not for Moose. And now I continue to pray for God to show me how I could have reacted in a way that honored God more. I’m not sure what the answer was, but I knew that because I didn’t have love for Moose, I wouldn’t have been able to say or do anything that would have changed his mind about God. And that is my sin – that I didn’t try to see who God sees when he looks at Moose. I didn’t pray beforehand and during for God to give me a heart for Moose. In the months since, I have been praying for God to give me a heart for Moose or anyone like him I meet so that I can approach the situation as Jesus would instead of how Tara would. Because Tara was just angry about having to have a judgmental Moose give her a tattoo.

Moose did a great job with the tattoo and I think he probably has no idea that he had me so worked up. And if anyone knows Moose, I hope you’ll tell him I think he did an awesome job.

Bottom line? we don’t gain permission to speak about the TRUTH of Jesus to anyone if we don’t first love them.  Truly, if you are praying for someone to come to Christ, please first pray that God would show you how to LOVE them . . that is your only job. Not to judge, not to open their eyes – those are God’s jobs.  You love and follow him and he really will do the rest.

Challenge: For whom do you need God to give you his eyes to see and his heart to love? Pray differently for those people today. Pray that you would know how to love them rather than that God would change them.