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Between Two Complexities

"It is finished" tattoo

Editor’s note: Sabrina Portner, FMS missioner in Cochabamba, Bolivia, reflects on the life and experience and prayer that led her to cherish the phrases “It is finished” and “I thirst”–both spoken by Jesus during his Passion.

Last year, during the spring semester of my senior year of college and during the time that led up to my decision to go on mission, I experienced many mental, spiritual, and emotional challenges while wrestling with God and my future. During the struggles, I would often write “it is finished” on my wrist to remind me of Jesus’ love for us so clearly portrayed on the cross. There will never be an end to the contemplation required by the cross and the precious words Jesus spoke before his death.

Fast forward to last fall, when I was living in Washington D.C. while completing the FMS Formation program before going on mission. Those three months were blessings from God but were also fraught with difficulty. My grandma, who was my confirmation sponsor and my spiritual lighthouse, fell ill. She was diagnosed with cancer and, in a matter of months, passed away while I was away from home. I had no idea that when I hugged her goodbye in August it would be the last time I would embrace her in this life. In November, I came home early from Formation to celebrate her life with my family.

I knew for certain in November that I wanted a tattoo in my grandma’s handwriting. My grandma’s birthday is in June, so while all my family back home was gathering to celebrate her life, I set out to get my first tattoo in Bolivia. On my right wrist, I am now marked with “I thirst,” and, on my left, “It is finished.”

Jesus said both phrases on the cross. I have contemplated these phrases many times and will continue to contemplate them for the rest of my life. “I thirst” is on my right wrist because I am right-handed, and so with this hand, I do many things. I will continue to thirst for justice, for a realization of the incarnation of God, for an ever greater love for humanity. “It is finished” is on my left, reminding me that evil is already conquered–no matter how much it doesn’t seem like it is–just by the very fact that love exists.

I am in between these two complexities, in the already and the not yet. Therefore, the “finished” is missing an “s” in the version written on my arm because I am the “s”. Its imperfection reminds me that evil is not fought through power and perfection, but through the messiness of vulnerability that is humanity. Jesus came to this earth through the beauty of humanity. He chose to get down in the mess with us. Life is not black and white. Duality is something to be fought and struggled with. Beyond this, it is important that I got these tattoos here in Bolivia because they will always remind me of this sacred place. And sacred it is.

Reflection question: What words or phrases have you cherished so much that they are (metaphorically speaking) tattooed on your heart? What is the story behind those words?