Tattoos and Cardigans {Jamie Hanauer}

Today’s post is from my friend Jamie Calloway-Hanauer. I am deeply honored that she was willing to share this here.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Once upon a time, I was young.

I thought all the admonishments, advice, and wisdom of my elders would not apply to my life, and I shook off their words.

I believed but didn’t always live prayerfully.

I thought through things as wisely as I could, often better than most, but youth does have its shortcomings.

I got my first tattoo when I was fifteen. A friend performed the task, in my living room, using a hollowed Bic pen, thread, India ink and a guitar string. I was in a band then (Christian punk), and each member got the same x-eyed smiley face to commemorate our commitment to one another.

I received my second and third tattoos when I was seventeen. Fairly well done, this time by a different friend, using an actual pro gun, once again in my living room.

The fourth I got at age eighteen. This time in a professional shop, done by an elderly man whose hand shook towards the end.

The fifth and sixth I got as an adult—a parent and law student at the time, you might think I would have known better.

But I didn’t.

Truth is, I very much like tattoos of a certain variety (the Sailor Jerry type). I find them attractive and I often like the stories that they tell about those who bear them.

What I failed to consider as recently as eleven years ago, however, is that no matter how much we rail against it in our youth, we do actually grow up. And buy minivans. And join the PTA. And wear wedding gowns and become bridesmaids and take the children to the park in hot weather. We attend church picnics and pool parties and workout in gyms. And—surprise!—people will see us during these times.

And people will judge.

Tattoos have become commonplace in my generation. I served on the PTA with women (and men) who had a few. After getting to know someone well, the presence of a little (or a lot) of ink usually goes unnoticed. But in those first moments, that first glance, or even when wearing a short-sleeved Easter dress for the first time to a church you’ve attended for eleven years, eyes travel to the vivid color on pale skin, and minds begin to calculate (or recalculate) just exactly who it is they are talking to.

And believe it or not, I don’t like this. I don’t like the knee-jerk assessment, the reassessment, or the stoic attempts to be “accepting.” And so by the time I hit 30, I’d learn to invest, heavily, in cardigans.

Thankfully I live in Berkeley. That has multiple benefits, one being that it is, well, Berkeley, and the other that it’s fairly cool here year-round. Most women carry a sweater with them at all times, and so my long sleeves in July warrant nary a glance.

We are, however, about to move to DC, a place not known for its temperate climate. I will be making new friendships, new first impressions, searching for a new church, and in general trying to develop a new community with whom to laugh, cry, and pray over the coming decades.

That isn’t something to enter lightly.

I wonder: should I or shouldn’t I? Meaning, should I swelter in the August heat until I’ve solidified my “personality” and good graces? Or should I live in relative physical comfort and risk being labeled a “type?”

Some might say, “Who wants to be friends with those who would judge or ‘type’ you anyway?” If only life were that easy. I have children. I have a spouse. As an adult, friendships are often born of what your children choose to do on Saturdays, or where you/your spouse finds employment.

Over the last seven years, I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone say in incredulous tones, “You have tattoos? You?? You are the LAST person I ever expected to have tattoos.” This statement comes from a belief that a mini-van driving, church attending, faith writing, non-smoking, non-drinking, non-partying mom of four would ever, EVER, think to get a little (or a lot) of ink.

They are both right and wrong. Would I today, being the person who I am, get tattoos? No, I wouldn’t. Do I regret, being the person who I am today, having gotten them? I would say, emphatically, yes. Does that have to do with me and how I feel about tattoos or how others do? Sometimes the line gets blurred and something born of societal influence becomes an “I’m doing it for me” type thing, but in reality the chicken and the egg have become a bit confused.

There are those who wear their tattoos as a badge of God-accepts-me-and-you-should-too honor. I believe that, but that’s not who I am. I don’t want second looks, discussions of a past life, assumptions of a present life, or a walk through Leviticus. I just want to be.

A friend once prayed for me that I would know I am more than “tattoos and cardigans.” As I move from my well-established home here in Berkeley to a life full of new friends, new church, play dates, and summers spent at the pool, I find that prayer coming back to me time and again. I have taken bold steps already—I purchased some new cap-sleeve dresses. I put a picture of my largest tattoo on Facebook (much to my mother’s dismay) and answered honestly when someone who I’ve known for years asked whose arm it was on.

I’m echoing daily my friend’s prayer for my life, and I’m getting closer to baring it all. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to throw in the cardigan.

Jamie Calloway-Hanauer is a work-at-home mom of four—two under five, one in college, and one called away too soon, for whom the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” was surely written. After practicing law for eight years, Jamie has put that chapter of life behind her and begun a new chapter of editing, writing, and considering whether or not she should donate all her suits to charity. Be sure to check out her blog where she writes pseudo-weekly on the absurd, the ironic, and the faithful, and connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter.

A Word of Praise for ‘Jesus Feminist’ from a Complementarian

I just finished reading Sarah Bessey’s little yellow book, “Jesus Feminist”, and I want to applaud, hug her, and raise my wine glass in a toast.

Jesus-Feminist-Cover-copyIt’s a beautiful book: redemptive, hopeful, saturated with the words and tone of the gospels. It is conversational yet profound. For all that she has tackled a hot-button topic, she has created a safe place in the pages of her book. It calls on us to consider that God has called and gifted ALL his children, men and women, to follow in His footsteps and participate in the great and wonderful work of seeing God’s Kingdom come on earth. Where ever we are, who ever we are: we are beloved, we are called, we are needed, we are commissioned.

How can you not want to applaud at these truths?

But did I mention that I’m one of those “complementarian” types? As much as I read about the roles men and women in the current church debate, I am still persuaded that Scripture has assigned different roles to men and women in marriage and ministry. For reasons I don’t want to dive too deeply into in this blog post, I am not convinced by the argument for “mutual submission”. I still can’t explain away that the Bible describes a wife’s submission to her husband and his love to her as being a model of our submission to Christ and His love to us. I understand submission as being a word which implies a voluntary yielding to authority, which by necessity means there has to be an authority relationship for submission to happen. We submit to Jesus, but he does not submit to us. He LOVES us. He SERVES us. But he doesn’t submit.

But do you know what? I don’t believe it matters that much, and Sarah Bessey’s book is a wonderful example of how believers can be on exactly the same page even if we disagree over interpretation on some points. To draw a line in the sand on this issue and stand toe-to-toe ready to shout is, as Bessey describes, “an adventure in missing the point.”

Why? Because the bigger issues at hand are the love and character and servant-heartedness of God’s people. When Bessey describes her egalitarian marriage, it sounds a lot like my complementarian one: we aim to serve one another, we put one another first, we are trying (with God’s gracious help) to put one another’s needs ahead of our own…. and friends, the way of other-person-centered love WORKS and brings joy in marriage, no matter what title you put on it.

In high school geometry I learned that complementary angles are two angles which add up to a Right Angle (90 degrees). I always understood complementarity in relationships to mean men and women together, both adding value side by side. I don’t believe that having different roles, or even acknowledging that there are relationships of authority and submission, necessarily means I am supporting patriarchy. Jesus and the Spirit submit to the Father (and not vice versa), but there is no patriarchy there.

Where oppression occurs, it occurs because of sin and a failure to love. Wives who are loved and nurtured in such a way that they flourish (as Ephesians 5 enjoins husbands to do) are unleashed to live a life of radical discipleship. I know this: I am a complementarian wife who teaches, who serves, who speaks, whose husband makes time for me to write. This is not the case for many though: there are many oppressed in the name of authority – and believers can and should speak up about this. Using authority for oppression is NEVER okay for God’s people. Never. The problem is not necessarily the existence of authority: it’s the sinful abuse of it. As one example: South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela is very different to how it is under Jacob Zuma: same system, different character.

I loved Sarah Bessey’s little yellow book. Loved it. Even though I thought we might be on “opposite sides of the fence” on a thorny issue. Even though I was nervous about the word “feminist”. I want ALL my beloved sisters to read the words of comfort and commissioning in this book, without fear of taking ‘sides’. This book is not about taking sides on “the women’s issue”; it is about men and women together being on Jesus’ side. I love that she has, in putting the emphasis on Jesus and His call to love God and love each other and love this world for all we are worth, put the spotlight squarely where it needs to be.

We are LOVED. We are commissioned. There is work to do and a world to serve and people to love. And for Jesus’ sake, this one-here-woman shouts a hearty ‘Amen’. If that’s what a Jesus feminist is, count me in. Even as a complementarian.