istock_000016184484_smallSinger-actress Brandy Norwood made the papers recently because of her tattoo. It seems the starlet had her fiancée’s face stamped across her back in ‘04 after accepting a $1million engagement ring. Now the betrothal is off and Brandy is undergoing a painful process to transform her former boyfriends face into a cat. Initially, Brandy’s tattoo, like her engagement ring, signified commitment and ownership. Now, seared into her flesh after a failed relationship, is a permanent reminder of love gone bad.

Not long ago I met an elderly Jewish couple married 61 years, both proudly brandishing tattoos. Holocaust survivors, their right forearms bore the marks of the respective concentration camps where they had been incarcerated. In faded blue ink hers read Auschwitz and his KZL.

I imagine those logos were initially a source of deep humiliation and anger for them. Branded like cattle with a stain that displayed ownership, they were herded and abused as captives of Hitler’s regime. But 60 years later this animated couple displayed their badges with pride. Each tattoo now marked them as survivors.

A Marked Man

In the Bible, God once branded a murderer. Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve rose up one day and slew his younger brother Abel. Driven from the country he knew, which no longer produced crops for him, Cain was banished to another land.

He reluctantly accepted God’s discipline convinced that whoever found him wandering on the earth would murder him. It was then that God placed a permanent mark upon the man, so that no one who found him would kill him.

At first glance this might appear to be a cruel stigmatizing scar. But in reality, this insignia was a sign of God’s love, ownership and protection. For, as miserably as Cain had failed, he was still the child of a God who did not want harm to come to him.

This assurance stands for us as well. Even when we fail miserably, God doesn’t write us off. We still belong to our Creator who is deeply committed to our welfare and our recovery.