When I was 17 years old I got my first tattoo. I was at the home of my then boyfriend’s friend who was a tattoo artist and was getting black ink embedded into my hip in the form of a Celtic knot symbol. I did this of course without permission behind my mother’s back and was very pleased with myself thinking how smart I was to put it in a place that I could easily hide it from her. I thought I was so cool! Though the Triquetra symbol has been known to be used in various cultures and beliefs, what I thought was just representing the Irish in my blood took on new meaning later in my life. Little did I know that the symbol I chose was also known as the Trinity Knot and has historically been associated with early Christianity symbolizing the holy trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, even in my rebellion it was clear that God wasn’t giving up on me that easily. Indeed, he wasn’t finished with me yet.
The Seal of God
Ephesians 1 describes the seal of God as the Holy Spirit which comes upon you when you believe.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. -Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV)
During my defiant years I was adamant about denying the Lord but, God in his faithfulness kept his seal of protection over me. As much as I may have tried I wouldn’t break the seal of the Holy Spirit. As much as I would resist, I thankfully couldn’t erase my name from his book of life. Even when I let go, he held on to me and I’m so grateful that he did.
When I was 19 I was in the throes of an abusive relationship. One day I was wearing a Celtic knot cross necklace, again for style more than anything else. I got into a fight with my ex which quickly escalated and I ended up punched hard in the chest. Later that night after the chaos was over I looked in the mirror at my sad reflection. Tired eyes, bloodshot and puffy from crying, a sore face that I couldn’t bring myself to take home to my mother, and a red cross shaped bruise where the necklace once was. I never felt more alone.
The word sealed comes from a Greek word which means “to stamp with a private mark” and refers to preserving and protecting the object which is sealed. I was quite literally stamped with the mark of my salvation through the cross of Christ. I kept the charm and when I left the relationship I held onto it for years in the drawer of a jewelry box. Just to remind myself to never allow something like that to happen to me again. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back this was more evidence of God’s seal on my life. Through my sin and the circumstances it placed me in, it was a harsh reminder that I still belonged to God. Though the harm of my body might not seem like protection it was. And it would eventually lead my soul back to a place of repentance.
Refined by Fire
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. –1 Peter 1:6-7
Soon after that physical fight another even worse one followed which lead to me and my daughter (barely 9 months old at the time) escaping that situation for good. It caused me to move home and rent an apartment from my mother which allowed my daughter grow up close to family and gave me the support I would need as a young single mom. Moving there put me back into my old hometown where I reconnected with my estranged friend group (isolation happens often within abusive relationships) including my now husband, and we fell in love.
Hindsight allows me to see that hard season as a fire that refined my faith, a harsh lesson and a blessing after all. It started a chain reaction of PTSD, anxiety, and depression which would only be healed by a relationship with the Lord and without those humbling factors I might have continued to convince myself that I didn’t need him.
So many things happened because of that difficult time in my life that made me who I am today. It lead me back to my faith which is now the foundation of my life and the source of the joy I am blessed to now experience daily. It’s funny to me that both of these significant “marks”, the tattoo and the bruise, had the common theme of Celtic knots. God planned it that way so I would know for sure that it was him.
As I was writing this post I received a pair of earrings in the mail from my Dad for my upcoming 30th birthday-Celtic crosses! The emblems though they remained the same in each situation have been transformed. Just like God gave new names to people changed by his grace in the scriptures, so these symbols and experiences take on new meaning to me in the light of God’s love. No matter how hard our battle, we can turn our trials into inspiration and the symbols of our struggles into symbols of our strength.
How have your trials refined you? How has God made his mark on your life?
If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!