Just after Christmas, on a chilly day, after bailing on a terrible trip to Target with all three kids, wherein one child kept running into things and another staged a toddler rebellion next to rows and rows of fluffy bath towels, I got a tattoo.
It had been in the works for months; part of a scheme we cooked up while my brother, sister-in-law, and the older of my younger sisters were all in town. When I shared the result on Instagram (because if it’s not on IG did it really even happen, okay?) I had several close friends respond saying they were shocked. And I get it! I can see how I might not seem like the tattoo kind of girl. But it’s been several months now, and although it’s been covered up by long sleeves most of the time, it already feels like it’s been there forever. It feels very right.
I promised an explanation (months ago) and here it is:
To put it (sort of) simply, the symbol of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Duff and I found it on a (nerd alert) bible app we both have on our phone. I’d had some ideas for tattoos before but never felt committed to anything long enough to be willing to make a permanent decision. When I saw this symbol, it was different. We agreed it would make a sweet tattoo, and I never forgot about it. When the opportunity to actually GET the tattoo came up in December, I went for it. Which, in retrospect, thank goodness I picked a great artist because with all those lines this tattoo could have gone really bad, really fast. Yikes.
So why Ecclesiastes?
I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten some weird looks when I’ve talked about how much I love Ecclesiastes. I can’t quite figure out why…maybe most people are just unfamiliar? Because I LOVE that book of the bible, and what it has to say to our time and place. It’s about searching.
One of the phrases repeated over and over in the book of Ecclesiastes is “under the sun.” And one of the lines that has always stood out to me is the verse that says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” When he uses the phrase under the sun, the writer is talking about life on earth, as far as we can know it. He’s also contrasting that with something other than life under the sun. He’s reminding us that there’s a life outside the sun.
I find comfort in the phrase “under the sun” because it reminds me that there is no pain, no disappointment, no separation, no frustration, no mistreatment, no loss, no sadness that hasn’t already been, and that Jesus isn’t familiar with. None of our hard things are a surprise or an anomaly to him.
I need that reminder often, especially on hard days or, more likely, when I’m overwhelmed by all the hard things in the world. I need a reminder that life under the sun is not all there is; that what started in a garden (Eden) then broke, will end in an eternal wedding feast with God and a great cloud of brothers and sisters.
When I remember that we’re “under the sun” I tend to think about what it will be like to be outside the sun. This passage, from Revelation 21, comes to mind:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
There is nothing new under the sun, but the hope that comes with knowing God is making all things new (not all new things, by the way) fills me with peace, courage, and love for Jesus.
So much so that I wrote the reminder on my arm.