We love your heart....but...

>> Friday, June 18, 2010

It was in the bag (or so we thought). We got in the car and traveled across the country to a very rough city that sits right outside of New York City (where I was homeless as a teen). It was hard for me to be there. The smells and the sights took me back to a life I had left behind. It was hard to deny the call. It seemed clear: this is where the Lord wanted us to be. Right smack dab in the center of the projects sits a church that truly is a beacon of light to its community. The hearts of those who served on staff ached for the plight of the poor and marginalized. How could we say no?


They accepted us with open arms. We stayed the weekend and served with them. We shared our hearts and how we had been burned by churches in the past because of the way we looked. They were sympathetic and understanding. They wanted us to pray about it, but if we wanted the job, it was ours...

The timing was perfect. Our new job would start the day after the last day of my husband's current job. Our contract for our home was up the month after. Everything was aligning. We were excited to go. We told our children (who cried and had a very difficult time with the news) and friends. I lost plenty hours of sleep with the anxiety that comes from moving your family into one of the roughest cities in America. We counted down the weeks...and then a month later, we got a phone call. Somebody on the leadership team did not want us to come because of our tattoos. Not our theology. Not because we weren't gifted in the areas needed. Because of ink. In our skin.

The supervising pastor from the church that served in leadership over the church in the projects asked us if we could write out why we had tattoos and to write out a credo. Because it was a reformed church, we had to agree with their doctrines. This is what I wrote:

(insert a bunch of church speak here declaring what I believe)

Regarding my tattoos:

From the time I was a little girl, I was always…different (my mama would say eccentric, meaning weird). I am a creative/artsy type. That is just the way that God made me. I always found tattoos interesting and beautiful (unless it was a demon mauling a baby or something pornographic and offensive). The Lord brought me to Him when I was twelve years old, but I was slow on the catch. I didn’t officially give Him my life for good until I was twenty. I started to get visible tattoos that could not be covered when I was a teenager. When I rededicated my life to Christ, I already had them. I decided that since I already had them, I would at least get some that pointed to Him (thus the tattoo of Jesus and the banner that says that He is Lord). I have always had a heart for the poor, the lost and the marginalized. I have been a magnet for a demographic the world calls “the freaks and weirdos”. Having tattoos has given me an automatic in (but I wouldn’t suggest getting tattoos so that you can witness to people…this is just how my testimony has played out). I have had extensive conversations about God and Christ with drug dealers, former convicts, prostitutes and the like, just because I have tattoos. For me, my tattoos have been a witnessing tool (but I did not plan for this to be the case).
The down side to this is that I have been judged rather harshly by a significant number of Christians. I have been denied the opportunity to use the gifts that God has given me to help further His Kingdom, not because my heart is in the wrong place or that my theology is in error, but because I have ink in my skin. The problem with this is that I can be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to mold and change my character, but I cannot take away the fact that I have tattoos (unless I had an enormous amount of money to pay for them to get removed –a very painful and time-consuming process).

Before I make a request, I just wanted to say a few things: I would never, ever try to convince a youth to get tattooed. This is not my place and I have more important things to share with them. I am called to spread the Gospel of Christ, not the “gospel” of tattoo culture.

My request is this:

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I ask the same thing.

If you can close your eyes and hear my heart and you find yourself resonating with it (because we have the same Spirit living within us), please don’t disregard that because my appearance makes you feel uncomfortable or you are worried about what parents in the community will say. Please do not let the fact that we have tattoos be the determining factor in whether or not we are welcomed into serving in your community.

Base your decision on our hearts for the Lord, the content of our character, and whether or not we have the skill sets that you need.

Regardless of the outcome of your decision, thank you. Thank you for allowing us to take a sneak peek into your lovely community. Keep spreading the love of our King to a community that so deeply needs Him.

May the Lord continue to do His mighty work in and through you.

In Christ,

Mandie Oliver


We waited. And waited. The supervising pastor was happy with how we responded and said that it just made him want to get to know us even more.

Yesterday they did the official vote. It was a 50/50 split. One person in the leadership even said that they wanted to remove their earings so as not to defile their temple. Yep. Read that gem again. It's true...and that annoying flesh part of who I am? It is angry. It wants to lament from the virtual rooftops of twitter and facebook and various other social media outlets. I want to put myself above these people...because surely I am above that, right? Right?

The truth is, we are all imperfect. All of us. We are all inclined to sin that manifests in different ways. I am no better...just...different in my strengths and weaknesses.

The human/broken side of me is tempted to allow myself to become bitter. At what point do you just throw your hands up because everywhere you turn in the Church you are told you don't fit?
When do you give up? Can you just walk away from a divine calling on your life?

Is it the posture of our hearts or the color(s) of our skin that is important? Should tattoos automatically exclude you from serving in the Body?

13 comments:

mr_mrsc June 19, 2010 at 9:36 AM  

Oh Mandy, my heart breaks with/for you and your family! The enemy is fighting hard in these last days... Lord I ask you to speak to the hearts of everyone involved. Show them Your perfect will. Give them ears to hear it, hearts to receive it, and strength to do it, in Jesus name. ((hugs))

Amy

Amanda June 19, 2010 at 12:39 PM  

Stink. It really does. I feel hurt for you - although I don't pretend to know your pain in this.

Mandie Oliver June 19, 2010 at 12:48 PM  

thank you, ladies. you can pray for us. i think on a human level we are both wanting to throw in the towel (which we won't).

rlynne77 June 19, 2010 at 12:58 PM  

The enemy is fighting hard for sure. We must fight back. And cling to the one who is the Conquerer. Praying for you friend.

Dorie June 21, 2010 at 9:41 AM  

craziness. Jesus looks on the heart. It's His people that look at the outward appearance.

Mandie Oliver June 21, 2010 at 1:57 PM  

it will all work out, i am sure of it...

Zombie June 22, 2010 at 7:33 PM  

No one would survive if 50% of the local body were against them. People are too stubborn and don't ever want to be right. It would be like trying to get Republicans to like Obama or Democrats to admit they were wrong about him. God has it in His hands. Your gifts will be used in the most efficient and pleasing way. Keep your head up, you are strong.

Mandie Oliver June 22, 2010 at 8:03 PM  

thanks, adam. i appreciate that.

OneBigHappy July 2, 2010 at 8:09 AM  

I'm with Adam on this one. I think God has protected you in this situation. It's good that you found out before you went how they felt about this as it could have been much more costly and painful if it had happened weeks or months after going there. Stay passionate and God will open whatever doors he wants you to go through.

Mandie Oliver July 2, 2010 at 8:20 AM  

dave!!! i miss your church!

EB July 4, 2010 at 9:18 PM  

So sad that they were not able to see past the surface. :( I truly enjoyed connecting with you tonight at the EGR fireworks. It was really neat for me to get to know you a little bit, to see that although we may look different on the outside, Christ works the same on the inside. I could tell just from our brief encounter that you are a true light for Him and you lifted me up. Thanks for being so friendly and for sharing his love with a stranger! And thanks again for the bug spray! :)

Mandie Oliver July 5, 2010 at 7:00 AM  

elizabeth, right? it was really nice to meet you! maybe we could meet for coffee at some point. what do you think?

OMSH August 10, 2011 at 9:56 AM  

"vWhen do you give up? Can you just walk away from a divine calling on your life?"

>> Absolutely not. God is bigger than that; big enough to put you exactly where He wants you.

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