“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27
She knew precisely how to begin the conversation. “Daddy, I have something to tell you. I hope you’re not mad, but I want you to know.” The call was from my 15 year-old daughter, about 9 years ago, just finishing a week at a youth camp during which she was challenged mightily to live for God, embrace what is good, and eat the cafeteria food. She was on the bus about to leave for the day-long trip home when she made THE CALL.
“I have something to tell you.” At this point I, like any parent, am riffling through all the possibilities of what the “something” may be. 99.999% of them are bad. Grateful that I got the call instead of her mother, I calmly said. “All right. What is it?”
“I got my ears pierced.” Now, at this point when you have begun with “I’ve got something to tell you that might upset you” and you end with an ear piercing, you oddly feel a measure of relief. I still had enough wits about me to ask, “what do you mean? Your ears are already pierced.”
Ear-piercing is one of those parental tests you go through with a daughter, hopefully only with your daughter. Fathers generally feel that 30 is a good year for a daughter to do anything she feels she wants to do at 10. I had been through this test. Her ears were pierced. The sun rose the next day, and no mob of hyper-hormonal boys were beating on the front door. I passed that test.
“Double piercing” she explained. All right. I get the picture. Two holes. “Where’s the second one?” She answered with that tone that makes me feel like a Neanderthal, as if I should know the nuances of double-piercing etiquette. “Right next to the first one.” I didn’t know. Accepted double-piercing form precludes the second piercing anywhere but the lobe. How very droll of me not to know better.
She went on to explain that at a wee morning hour she and a handful of her cohorts became impressed that they needed to be more dedicated Christian girls, and that as a sign of their devotion they would pierce their ears, excuse me, double pierce, their ears. The second stud or ring or whatever you call the subsequent ornament would serve as a visible reminder to them of their collective commitment. She told me they even had a worship service afterward, read scripture, sang worship hymns. I am not making any of this up.
All right. Deep breath. At this point, amazement was equaled by amusement. Optimist that I am, my thoughts in rapid succession were something like: “it was only her ear lobe, not some other body part,” “no chains are involved,” “it won’t look like bread mold by the time she’s thirty (i.e. no tattoo),” “how the devil did you do this?”, “do the words ‘sterile conditions mean anything to you?”, and “it’s not any of the other thousand things that could have been much worse.”
Also, the practice is somewhat Biblical. Stay with me, I had to bring Leslie along slowly on this point. Some type of physical sign as a symbol of devotion is not unusual in the Bible. Paul shaved his head as a vow to God during one of his missionary journeys (Acts 18). Four brethren did the same in Jerusalem (Acts 21). The Nazirite vow, of which the previous two are examples, is described in Numbers 6, but can also involve letting one’s hair grow. And who can forget Abraham and his “sign of the covenant?” I’m pretty sure Abraham had been through something like a sleep-deprived youth camp prior to that commitment.
To Lauren’s credit she told me that she “racked her brain” trying to remember if I had ever explicitly told her that she couldn’t get a double piercing. I have to admit, I had never explicitly said “do not ever skewer any body part after midnight on a church trip.” The law was on her side. And trust me, I began compiling that list immediately.
Another deep breath. She was not the first girl to do something like this. Some of my present readership can hearken back to days of pins and corks and conditions less antiseptic than present day boutiques. So it could have been worse. And really, much of the intent was quite good, even if the expression was a bit questionable.
So, I was glad she and her friends, newly pierced and all, had a good camp. I was not angry or disappointed. In fact, I loved their passion. I recall days when, in a new-found fervor, I was willing to do anything for God, and I pray for that zeal today. We all need conviction combined with courage. And some type of sign is good, though let me suggest a new Bible or perhaps a bracelet.
Our prayer should always include the commitment to meet God’s ever-fresh offer of grace with a gentle zeal to honor Him in all we do. Yes, that will be our prayer.
I also prayed her lobes wouldn’t fall off. That was nine years ago. The lobe is fine.
Dr. Terry Ellis
June 26, 2012