Two weeks ago, I spent the week with this on my hand. It is "UN", meaning Undocumented. This temporary tattoo is from undocumented.tv and the idea was two-fold: (1) to step into the shoes (as much as I could) of someone who is undocumented in the United States to get a feel for what it might be like; and (2) to spark conversation about the issue and see where it might lead.
For the first day and a half, not one person said anything to me about the tattoo. I rode the train, I went to the coffee shop, I was at work all day. Not a word. Part of me thinks people just didn't know what it was -- did it stand for the United Nations? Had I been out at a dance club and this stamp meant I was old enough to drink? (Later someone mentioned that because of the way I put the tattoo on, the only one who could see it clearly was me. This led to other thoughts about my egocentrism, etc.)
Just the fact that no one noticed initially kind of annoyed me. Here I was conducting this great experiment, expecting to have challenging, life-changing conversations, and nothing was happening. I was dying to be noticed and to tell a story, but instead I was standing around as if everything was normal.
My thought process then shifted to what being known as my worst sin (or, at least what others believed to be my worst sin) would be like. What if, instead of tattooing "UN" on my hand, I wrote the sin I last committed in black permanent ink. Not just the sin, though, I would have to identify myself as if my sin is who I am. So, I wouldn't write, for example, "Lie" but "LIAR" in big black print. Or, not "cheat" but "CHEATER." "ADULTERER" "GOSSIP" "SELF-CENTERED" "THIEF" The thought of this made me cringe. Made my stomach sink. What if I started walking around as my worst sin? The worst thing I have done written on my hand for all to see. Might I start believing that this sin defined me, was all that I was, all that I had to offer? And any conversation would have to be about that and not about who I am or what I do, how I serve, who my children are, where I go to church, that I am a child of God, made in His image.
Over the last days of the week when people began to notice, but the conversations didn't go anywhere, I started to imagine great conversations instead. I dreamed of setting forth a powerful closing argument that I might give to a jury of those deciding whether to deport all 12 million illegal immigrants. What would I say, how could I say it? I believe we should have secure borders. I believe people who have broken the law should be accountable. I thought of answering the question: Why not just deport everyone? What was my answer? I know the statistics. It would cost in the billions. But, is that really why? I probed deeper and concluded that no, the cost of it is not the why for me. The why is not even that it would break up families and that for many illegal immigrants, "going back" is like going nowhere at all because of how long they have been away.
The why for me is much less logical, indeed illogical: it is grace, plain and simple. And to defend grace, well, how does one do this? People ask: Why should we give grace? Why should we provide a pathway to legality? They broke the law. They don't deserve it.
Yeah. Been there.
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8