The Story Behind My Tattoo: Learning To Have A Lover's Quarrel

The Story Behind My Tattoo: Learning To Have A Lover's Quarrel

I hope I did right by my family in the end.


"I hold your doctrine of Memento Mori. And were an epitaph to be my story, I'd have a short one ready of my own.I would have it written on my stone: I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

The above quote is the final stanza to my favorite poem, Robert Frost's "The Lesson For Today." The last line of the poem is Robert Frost's epitaph, the line that goes on his gravestone. The words were so powerful and inspirational to me that I thought about my own mortality back in April, and, for an English project about Robert Frost, wrote my own epitaph for what will go on my own gravestone.

During the summer, I thought about getting a tattoo for the Latin phrase and creed of memento mori. Literally, the phrase means to "remember that you have to die," and sometimes I waver between that definition and my own misinterpreted and distorted one, which means "live like you're about to die." That interpretation is perhaps just a fancier way of saying "you only live once," but the true story goes deeper, much deeper than that. The decision to get the tattoo, in itself, was, oxymoronically, an impulse that was deeply contemplated. The actual decision to get the tattoo was made on a whim. I approached my roommate on Thanksgiving Day, and said "come with me to get a tattoo," rushed him and myself out of our house as soon as the tattoo parlor opened the next day.

The tradition and history behind memento mori is in Latin Christian theory. Reflecting on death, in traditional memento mori tradition has been a means of considering the vanity of wordly life and worldly goods and pursuits. We can take the interpretation to mean that, as Christians, we should focus more on the holy spirit rather than gratifying the flesh. Contemporarily, that means instead of trying to please others, our jobs, as Christians, are to please God. Memento mori signals to us that we should tune our identities and our character towards the soul, rather than towards earthly pursuits. The skull, a common symbol of memento mori, was commonly used in early European Christian to emphasize "Heaven, Hell, and salvation of the soul in the afterlife."

The Latin message of carpe diem is considered, in Christian art, to be a pagan idea that made people focus on many of the worldly pleasures of life. The message of memento mori the early Christian tradition seems to be this: by focusing on death and our mortality, we can be more moral creatures.

The early Christian model of memento mori, however profound, does not mean much to me. I instead take my lesson on memento mori from Robert Frost and "The Lesson For Today," and memento mori in that context is more practical. It means that to be be a "Christian disciplined to bend his mind to thinking of the end," we have to be "unhappy yet polite." That is what it means to me to live under the creed of of memento mori.

To be unhappy yet polite has been a doctrine I have lived through my whole life, because I differentiate between happiness and joy. Happiness is worldly and happiness fades. Nothing is more transient than being happy for a couple hours on one day and then proceeding to the next as if everything is wrong because you don't have the same happiness. Joy, however, is everlasting. Joy is an everlasting happiness you can have even when all the circumstances in life are terrible. According to the pastor John Piper, joy is "a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world." Joy is much more realistic in allowing the broad range of human emotions. You can be joyful and be depressed. You can be joyful and anxious. You can be joyful and ill. You can be joyful and tired, and all these emotions are meant to be felt not despite joy, but in conjunction with joy. Joy is a good feeling in the heart and soul, not in the mind and body.

I digress, but the point is that how we view joy is also the relationship we should have with God and with others, as Christian doctrine declares the two greatest laws being to love God and love others. To love God and love others, we have to have "lover's quarrels" with those people.

I can picture the words forming in your mind. "What? Ryan, what is thist?" you may ask. A lover's quarrel is a deeply oxymoronic term. We shouldn't quarrel with the people we love, after all.

In the words of Reverend Sarah Brouwer at the Minneapolis Westminster Presbyterian Church, is that in a lover's quarrel, "The quarrel is not about winning or losing an argument - it's a quarrel that spurs ur toward working on our relationships...and making sure that they are good and honest, and eventually, whole." To have a lover's quarrel, and to live under the creed of memento mori, means to strengthen those relationships, and even focus much of our lives on them. Many things in life are earthly, worldly, and vane, from possessions to accomplishments to everything in between. Relationships are not. I know, for certain, if there is one thing that I will carry with myself at the end, it is those relationships, with my family, community, and God.

The last part, to have a lover's quarrel with God, is an important message to have. Mark 1:11 is where God proclaims us as his lover, and us as his beloved. "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." To have a lover's quarrel goes two ways. God will break our world, at times. He may break us in the flesh. And sometimes, we will wrestle with our faith and be angry with him. Sometimes, we may doubt. He has his beloved children's' best interests at heart, but we may not agree on everything. I know for certain that I won't agree on everything with my future wife on how to raise a child, and will not be well pleased with those disagreements. That, simply, is how most loving relationships are, and none more so than our relationship with God.

Reverend Brouwser's sermon on the role of justice and social justice, in particular, concludes that to be just, we must engage in "God's love and quarrels with the world." But the part that struck out to me most in the sermon is that to minister to others means "not to afflict the comfortable," but to "comfort the afflicted." I believe that every person is afflicted deeply in some manner, and the more you know and love people, the more you realize how messed up they are, and the more they realize how deeply afflicted and messed up you are.

To live under the doctrine of memento mori means to have a lover's quarrel, in all those relationships, with others, with God. I know that my greatest strength in these relationships is my ability to be open and vulnerable, and break the power of shame's hold over our lives as we hide ourselves, as Adam and Eve did, from God and from others. As such, I will re-state my epitaph and what my tattoo of memento mori reminds me of as my life mission.

"I hold your doctrine of memento mori. And were an epitaph to be my story, I'd say: "My name is Ryan, and I loved people by trying to break the power of shame. I hope I did right by my family in the end.

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Christian Boys Vs. Godly Men

It is time to stop settling for the lesser of the two.

Ladies, there is a huge difference between a Christian boy and a Godly man; therefore, it is time to stop settling for the lesser of the two.

So many times I hear girls saying:

“Well, he’s a Christian.”

“He goes to church with me.”

“He listens to Christian music.”

“He went to church camp.”

“He has a favorite bible verse.”

SEE ALSO: What An Attractive Man Looks Like

Well, all of those things are just peachy and there is nothing wrong with doing those things. I mean, they’re all good things to do. But how is his personal relationship with God? How is his prayer life? Does he talk about his relationship with God, with you? Is he truly a follower of the one true God in all aspects of his life? These are some of the characteristics you should be looking for that makes a Godly man.

Ladies, a man will love you great when he loves God greater.

A Godly man will pursue an honest relationship with you. He will be clear of his intentions. A Godly man will worship, pray and passionately praise God with you. Whereas, a Christian boy might open the door for you, a Godly man will open his bible and explore God’s word with you so that you both may grow spiritually, together. While a Christian boy may put on an outward show, a Godly man will live out the love of Jesus daily.

So ladies, are you catching on to this ongoing trend? A Godly man does more because you deserve more.

A Godly man will be a leader. Trust me, I know that in today’s society Godly men are few and far between while Christian boys come in plenty. But you deserve a man who is after God’s heart not just a boy who goes to church. And I know that this Christian boy may seem great and have some really stellar qualities at the time but money and looks fade, whereas, an ongoing love for our savior will not.

The greatest thing a man can do for a woman is to lead her closer to God than himself. (Yes, yes, yes).

SEE ALSO: As Christians, Life Isn't Supposed To Be Hard

So I beg of you, do not settle. Do not settle just because you’re tired of being single, it’s convenient or because you want the relationship your friend has. Single does not equal available and a relationship status does not define you. God uses your season of singleness to prepare you for what is to come. And if you’re dating a Christian boy, he needs to step it up or you need to move on. Wait for a Godly man who is ready to lead you. God’s timing is always better, always. No matter the circumstance. So, do not rush God. (I mean, He is, after all, pretty good at His job). Therefore, turn your full focus to Him and He will direct your path.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Cover Image Credit: Christina Sharp

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I'm A Woman, Proud And Strong

I like the color pink, and I still like to win.


I'm a female. No matter how big the mountain, how rough the terrain, how difficult the task, I am fearless. I am a warrior. I am a woman.

I've spent most of adolescent life sitting back and watching society turn into something so cruel and mean, full of intense hate and slander toward anything that is considered even the slightest bit different. Growing up, I was tossed into this world of constant masculinity and lack of vulnerability where I was told what I could and couldn't do and what I wanted and didn't want for my life. My entire life was created for me, and the same was true for my close friends and family members who had fallen victim to this ugly place we call home.

And yes, being a child, obviously, you have to have some kind of guidance from teachers and parents, those who are supposed to help you grow instead of pinpointing every single detail of how your life should run. However, there comes a time when each and every person, no matter gender or sexuality, should be able to choose their own path.

I was never liked in my time in public school, and now that I reflect on my time there, I realize that it wasn't because I was an unlikable person. It was because not a single person understood WHY I was the way I was: I stayed to myself, I learned to have a backbone, and I sure as hell DID NOT let any man, or any person for that matter, create a path for me to walk. Women are not doormats. We are strong individuals who have just as much a brain as any other gender in the world. I don't do laundry, I don't clean, and I don't cook. Am I still a woman? Absolutely.

We are underestimated and have been throughout all of history. Our voices have been silenced since the beginning of time, but now we're considered butthurt because we want equality?

I've believed in God as long as I have been born, but I have never once thought that He loved me any less because I decided to stand up for myself instead of bowing to another person. Yes, He created woman from man. But, is that why He gave us the strength of childbirth? Why we are considered the nurturing figure? Why are we as women, mothers, and queens of our time, capable of loving everything with our entire being and still considered the weaker sex?

I am a product of a small town; I am a product straight from a molding masculine household where there are jobs for a woman and jobs for a man. However, I am also the product of a poor education system. I am a product of hatred and sexism. I am a product of a society that has been against my gender since the beginning of time, not just in modern times.

But, even through all of this, I also know for a fact just what women can do when put in a room together for a large amount of time. I've watched nothing turn into something great in the hands of women. I've watched women fail but use failure as encouragement to move forward. I have been a woman who has had doubts but has used her fears to create and empower others. So, don't look at me and tell me that you can't be "feminist" because the Bible tells you that you can't be.

God made us strong.

He made us caring.

He made us amazing.

He made us female.

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