Tattoo Man

Tattoo Man

I'll never forget where Tattoo Man lived: corner apartment, right-hand side, directly in front of the broken-down Chevy El Camino. He made quite an impression the first day I met him as I made my way down the line of apartments, handing out food and praying for people. I knocked on his door and waited forever. Eventually I heard his gruff smoker’s voice: “Yeah, what do you want?”

“I want to show you God’s love in a practical way. Do you happen to need some groceries and prayer?” With lightning speed he opened the door, snatched the bag of groceries, and slammed the door. “Okay!” I shouted. “We’ll pray next time.”

Two weeks later the same thing happened. When I knocked on his door, he grabbed the food so fast I didn’t even get a look at his face. I snapped my fingers and said, “Got me again!” The next time, however, I was much quicker. As soon as he lunged for the groceries, I stepped back and said, “Why don’t I pray for you first?”

He slowly walked outside. He was wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, and he was covered with tattoos, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. I’m not talking about a few tattoos here and there—every inch of his body was covered with them, hence the nickname.

“You want to do what?” he asked.

“I’d like to pray for you. Is there anything that’s weighing on your heart?”

He stretched and yawned and said, “Man, its early . . . um . . . I don’t know . . . uh . . . how ’bout my son? That’s it. Pray for my son. He’s in a track meet today. Pray that he makes me proud.”

I placed my hand on Tattoo Man’s shoulder and prayed that God would help his son run to the best of his ability and bring him and his dad closer together. Without saying a word, he grabbed the groceries and slammed the door behind him. I walked away and said, “That’s a start.”

A few weeks later when I approached Tattoo Man’s apartment again, he didn’t wait for me to knock. He ran outside and said, “Religious Guy, never thought you’d come by again. My son, you know the one you prayed for, he made it to the sectionals! I need you to pull down some favors with, you know, the Big Man.”

I said, “Let’s see what we can do.” Placing my hand on his shoulder, I prayed again. As soon as I finished, he picked up the groceries, gave me a thumbs up, smiled, and walked inside—a big improvement from any previous visit.

The next time, Tattoo Man was waiting for me outside on the porch. “The regionals!” he yelled. “He’s going to the regionals! I’m so stoked! Let’s pray again.”

I sat down next to him and said, “How about you? I’d like to pray for you first. If Jesus were sitting right here, what would you ask him for?”

He looked down at the ground and mumbled, “I’d ask him to help me get off cocaine and get a job. I have to get out of this place. I’d ask him to help me be there for my kids. I want to make my son proud.”

When I knocked on his door a few weeks later, Tattoo Man yelled, “He’s in the state championship today! Right now to be exact. Mile relay. He’s gonna win. I can feel it.”

As I stood there listening to him brag about his son, I couldn’t help but picture a young kid on one of the biggest days of his life, looking up at an empty bleacher seat where his father should have been. Had I known Tattoo Man wasn’t going to be at that track meet, I would have taken him myself, but it was too late. I was so sad and frustrated by the whole situation that I couldn’t even pray. I just reached over and hugged my friend, reminding him of his prayer to make his son proud.

Soon afterwards Tattoo Man disappeared. I didn’t hear from him for quite some time.

But two years later, at a different apartment complex, I turned a corner and a huge man bumped right into me. I looked up and said, “Tattoo Man?”

“Door-knocking Pastor Guy!?” he screamed, and picked me off the ground and shook me up and down so hard I almost passed out.

I couldn’t believe it. I said, “How in the world are you doing? I lost track of you.”

“Yeah, I went down a bad road,” he said, “but God worked a miracle. Look at me. I’ve got a job doing maintenance at this apartment complex. I met a wonderful Christian woman, started attending church, and last year I became a Christian. Best of all I’m completely clean from cocaine, and I’m a real dad again. You started it all. Thank you.”

I felt an incredible swell of pride, the way I feel when one of my daughters sings at a school concert or scores a goal in a soccer game. I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eye and said, “I knew you could do it. I just knew it.”

Galatians 6:9 says: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Do you believe that?


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