My Faith/New Testament/Scripture Draw Near: A Divine Invitation by Rachel Leininger I’m going to tell you a secret: I know some tattooed nuns. Let me be quick to clarify that they got those tattoos before they became nuns, and their parents knew they were getting them, and their religious superiors knew they were coming in with them, they aren’t full sleeves or anything, and their habits cover them completely. But still… tatted nuns. Pretty cool, huh? How do I know about these nuns with tattoos? Well, because one of them got hers done in the chair next to mine. The week before my best friend entered religious life, she and I went to get tattooed together. You should have seen the look on the tattoo artist’s face, when asked what brought us into the shop that day… Note that we were both adults, well out of college at the time, and did not decide to get tattoos on a whim. We had our designs in mind for over a year, and while we got them in similar locations, it’s not like we got two halves of a ‘best friends forever’ heart. A tattoo is a really big decision, and one that should not be made without a lot of careful thought. It also shouldn’t be made independently – a lot of people have a lot of feelings about tattoos, and if it’s something your loved ones (especially your parents) would have a problem with, don’t go there. Seriously. There’s no official Church teaching on the subject, although there are certainly opinions (like this one and this one). One thing that’s for sure is that tattoos are not for those who fear commitment. They’re for forever – a concept I thought I understood before I got a tattoo, but believe me when I say “commitment” took on a whole new meaning when I woke up the next morning and looked down at these words that will never, ever, ever go away. So what on earth could mean so much to be that I would get it permanently marked on my body? Heaven. Duh. A READING FROM THE LETTER OF JAMES My favorite verse in the Bible is (and has been since I was a teenager) James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” And so a couple of years ago, sitting alongside my best friend, I got two little words tattooed on the inside of my right wrist: “Draw Near.” Since I talk with my hands, I frequently flash the inside of my wrist in front of whomever I’m speaking to – people I eat with, crowds I speak to, my family and friends. And I’ve gotten pretty used to the question by now: “What’s that say?” Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. That’s it. That’s how simple it all really is. Many people think that a relationship with God is complicated… but it really, really isn’t. He’s as close to us as we allow Him to be, and He’s waiting, constantly, for us to invite Him nearer. The second we move toward Him, no matter how close to or how far from Him we think we are, He’s matching us, step for step, rejoicing over the fact that He gets to be closer to us than He was. There’s no end to this journey, which is why I love the constant reminder. There have been times in my life where I’ve felt so close to the Lord – things were going well in school, I was accepted to that college, I got that scholarship, I fell in love, my family was happy and healthy and whole. And there have been times where I wondered where He could be – I was cut from that team, that friend quit speaking to me, my grandparents passed away, that relationship ended. Our lives are made of ups and downs, full of things we could never predict, for better and for worse. And through it all, God is as near to us as we allow Him to be. HOW NEAR? It’s a beautiful thought for Advent, isn’t it? In the Old Testament, God spoke through a burning bush, through a cloud of smoke and a pillar of fire, through a man named Moses on a mountaintop in Sinai. He was always there, right? Just out there, or up there, somewhere. It was hard to say where, exactly… And then, with the birth of Christ, everything changed and suddenly, He was closer to us than He’d ever been before. He was here, as a man, to walk with us and speak to us and live and die for us. We discovered that our God had some skin in the game. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And during this Advent season, as we remember the anticipation of His birth in Bethlehem as a reminder that we still anticipate His coming again, we have the chance, every day, to draw nearer. And He is doing the same. He’s coming closer still. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. He doesn’t pause or second-guess, doesn’t ask us where we’ve been or what we’ve done. He hasn’t moved, even though we have. He doesn’t hesitate to come closer, even though we do. He’ll never question or doubt His love for us, even if we will. He will be as close to us as we allow Him to be. God wants nothing more than to be as close to you as possible. As we prepare for the coming of Christ again at Christmas, I hope you’ll draw even nearer to Him. Meet Him in the Confessional, in the Eucharist, in His Word, in your neighbor… Every day is a chance to draw nearer to Him, because He’s everywhere you look. Draw near to God, and He’ll draw near to you – He guarantees it.