True Prayers, Baked Goods & Tattoos

ERIC MASTERS


In high school, I was the weird kid who drew designs on my arms with a pen. Before long, I was the weird kid who drew on a lot of people’s arms before track meets. Eventually, the IHSA said I couldn’t do that anymore, so then I was just a weird kid.

I’ve been dreaming about what my first visible tattoo would be since I was probably ten—so I think it surprised everyone that it didn’t happen till I was thirty. Turns out, it’s a lot harder to decide on something that won’t wash off when you get tired of it.

In addition to the permanence of a tattoo, I’m a big feelings person who regularly places great importance on little things. I already struggle to communicate my big moods with words—how am I supposed to communicate them with a picture? How will I ever settle on what story I tell with the ink on my body?

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Eventually, I realized a tattoo doesn’t have to tell the whole story; it can just be part of it. Or, it can just be there to make me happy. So that’s what I did.

This tattoo is from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands: “The Fox, The Crow, And The Cookie” by MewithoutYou. It’s a retelling of a much older story, and there’s a lot to like. I could try to be all philosophical and talk about how the fox represents my sarcasm and inability to shut up.

Or how the crow represents my vanity and thesaurus abuse.

Or how the baker represents my...love of sweets? My fondness for shouting bizarre dessert-based insults at people?

I don’t know. The fact is, it just isn’t that deep. Hearing that song makes me happy. Looking at animals and colors and art and how creative people can be makes me happy. And now, looking at my left arm makes me happy. That’s it.

In my experience, faith is that way, too. As a problem-solver by trade and an over-thinker by choice, the mystery inherent in Christianity has always been hard to navigate for me. I like data. And answers. And clarity. (And baked goods.) Christianity is pretty short on all of those.

The last couple lines of the song have never seemed to fit with the whimsical tone of the rest of the song—almost as if they are inserted by a narrator. Rather than trying to end with “the moral of the story” like the versions written by Aesop and Bawa Muhaiyaddeen do, it doesn’t try to provide clarity about who the hero of the story is. It doesn’t give you a little fortune cookie-sized piece of wisdom that you can carry with you for the rest of the week.

When letting all attachments go

Is the only prayer we know,

May it be so

May it be so

May it be so

Sometimes a story is just a story. Sometimes the value of art is in the emotion, not the symbolism. Sometimes a shrug is the only prayer that’s true.

[Tattoo by Tim Biedron at Pioneer Tattoo in Chicago]


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Eric is married to Amber and lives in Peoria. When he isn’t being preachy on the internet, he serves on the Leadership and Ministry Teams, brews beer, plays D&D, pets every cat, and somehow gets paid to design things.

Christina Hite