20 January 2009

Tattooed on the Wrist

There are days when the effect of my sin seems so weighty that I'm compelled to do something to atone for it.  Sometimes a phrase out of my mouth (in truth, out of my heart Matt. 12:34) will be a "pain missile" - connecting with my wife (or kids) in a specific place of vulnerability.  With the words still lingering in the air, I'll sense the lasting damage.  As her response confirms the hit, I feel the weight of my foolishness.  If it could only be a dream and I could wake up with no regret and shame!  

"Tell me what you want.  I'll do anything."  I say desperately.  "How can I make it better (for me, really, how can I make my guilt go away)?"

Responsibility for this kind of hurt is heavy and everything in me wants to get out from underneath it.  I understand Daniel Price: 

(From the 1-17-09 Coloradoan)
With the name of the woman he killed tattooed on his wrists, 21-year-old Daniel Price said he "needed to go to prison" before he was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for felony vehicular homicide.
Price, of Fort Collins, pleaded guilty in November to striking 32-year-old Rebecca Allen with his car as she rode her bicycle July 22 in the bike lane on West Drake Road near Moore Lane. Price was 20 at the time and had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit for someone old enough to drink. He also had THC in his blood. THC is the active compound in marijuana.

There were more than 60 people in District Court Judge Jolene Blair's courtroom for the hearing, forcing some people to stand and others to sit in the jury box.

Supporters of the Allen family, many of whom wore bicycle pins, took offense to Price's decision to tattoo "R. Allen" on his wrist, but Price said he did it to remember the crash and to remind him to be accountable for his actions on a daily basis.
Daniel took the life of this young woman, leaving her husband and family reeling in pain.  So, on his wrists, he chose to create a permanent reminder of his sin.  

The problem with Daniel's reaction and my reaction is that we don't understand 1) the gravity of our sin and 2) the glories of the Gospel.  

Does Daniel really believe that his tattoos and his 8 years in prison will atone for Rebecca's death?  Is that what her life was worth; tattoos and an eight-year sentence?
Do I think that the hurt, the confirmation of lies believed and the loneliness felt by my wife is something a gift should erase?

Our problem here is not one of excessive regret but insufficient regret.  Atonement is still within our grasp.  

If we really "got it", our despair would drive us to the only hope left for sinners (Romans 6:23).  Atonement (1 John 2:2 and 4:10) - severe, thorough and just atonement (Isaiah 53:5,10) has been made for Rebecca's death and my hurtful words.  Jesus carries the final mark on his wrist (1 Peter 3:18).  

How does this help?  First, it rightfully acknowledges the cost of sin.  Its wages are death, sometimes immediately, always eternally, and to acknowledge anything less minimizes the victim's pain.  Second, it destroys the self-centered preoccupation to find a clear conscience and opens the door to genuine, others-focused loving concern for the one wronged (2 Cor. 7:10-11).   Last, it forms the basis for forgiveness.  No one has been offended more and holds a greater claim to justice than God.  Every one of us has treated Him with disdain (Romans 3:23) and rejected His rightful claim to our lives (1 Corinthians 8:6) and yet, while we were still sinners - Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  Jesus' prayer "Father forgive them..." extends to us, and so, as greatly forgiven, we can forgive (Matthew 18:23-35).

May Rebecca Allen's family and Daniel Price experience the glorious freedom to love and forgive found exclusively in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May I stop atoning for my sin and, instead, humbly attend to its effects while resting in the glorious grace of God thru the death of His Son.  


  1. Mitch,

    thank you for your recent posts on the gravity of sin. i appreciate your vulnerability in sharing your own struggles and wrestling matches with the weight of the consequences... last night i read this quote from Lewis's Problem of Pain:

    "Love can forbear, and Love can forgive... but Love can never be reconciled to an unlovely object....He can never therefore be reconciled to your sin, because sin itself is incapable of being altered; but He may be reconciled to your person, because that may be restored."

    Traherne, Centuries of Meditation

    Thank God that He made us as moldable creatures-able to change by His abounding grace!!!


  2. Thank you for your discernment about this situation, Mitch.

    I had the privilege of working with Rebecca Allen on a number of occasions at CSU. She was a joy to work with and is missed by all.

    This most recent article in the Collegian quotes Mr. Allen, Rebecca's husband, to Price after the sentence was given.

    Allen's words make me ache for Price. Likewise, the reality of the loss of Rebecca make me ache for Allen. So much pain on both sides. What a victory it would be to see forgiveness come through Christ working in these men's lives. Only Jesus could change these men so drastically that Allen could forgive Price and Price could forgive himself. I pray they will both encounter an irresistible grace leading to forgiveness and peace. What a testimony to the world if these men could be friends and brothers in Christ.

    I'm reminded of the story of Nate Saint, a missionary to Ecuador in the 1950s. Nate and his colleagues made some of the first contact with the Waodani (Huaorani) people in an effort to share God's truth. The Waodani were known for their hostility to outsiders. The contact began well, but early interactions between the missionaries and the Waodani led to the killing of five missionaries including Nate Saint.

    Steve Saint, the son of the murdered Nate Saint, was a young boy at the time of his father's death. Not long after the killing of those five missionaries, peaceful contact was made with the Waodani by others including Rachel Saint, the sister of Nate Saint. As a young boy, Steve and his mother began to live among the Waodani as their entire tribe was transformed by the knowledge of Christ's forgiveness. Steve Saint is now a traveling evangelist who's ministry partner is Mincaye, the Waodani tribe member who speared Steve's father to death over 50 years ago. Steve and Mincaye are close friends and partners in spreading the truth of Christ's power and grace; they are living example of true forgiveness.

    I pray that Mr. Allen and Mr. Price would seek Christ and the healing he can give. Jesus said "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28) Each and every person in on this earth, including myself and anyone reading this, deserves to go to hell for the sins we have committed. We've wronged God who created us and by His mercy sustains our life each day. By God's amazing grace, he offers to take our deserved punishment if we repent of our sin and believe in Christ as the one true Son of God who died as an atonement for our sin. God is merciful and patient with many who spend most of their lives running from Him. It is life-shattering events like the death of Rebecca Allen that can cause those of us left behind to realize their need for a Savior. My prayer is that Mr. Allen and Mr. Price would make contact again while Mr. Price serves his due sentence, and that both would have an encounter with the truth of God and the forgiveness he offers through his son Jesus.

    Thanks again for your post, Mitch. I am encouraged by your eternal perspective on hard issues.