Today, I am returning to the subject of tattoos. Like Moses’ bronze snake on a pole, tattoos frequently serve as reminders: memorials to loved ones, odes to heartbreak, words to live by. I live in a museum of souvenirs, wear Catholic charms around my neck, and wear inspirational clothing. Thus, no need for permanent ink. I have a (mostly) excellent memory.
However, I recently met a woman who had the word SOZO tattooed on her left wrist. I was interviewing her to sell my house in Arkansas.* After trying to figure out what the word said, I finally asked her. She confessed to being a little embarrassed I’d noticed but told me the following story:
As a young woman she traveled to the leper colony Kalaupapa on Molokai as part of a Christian mission group which worked on clearing the trails. The colony, in 1984ish, was still operational. Indeed, as of 2015, six patients still inhabited the colony. When she asked the priest if she could hug the residents, the priest was surprised. No one ever asked to hug the “lepers” when they visited. But he told her adelante. (By then, drugs had been developed to cure what is now called Hansen’s disease so the “patients” were not in any way contagious.) So this woman went ahead and hugged the affected people.
Later in life, she heard a sermon based on Luke 17:11-17.
Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Curious, this woman wanted to know the Greek word for “well” – obviously it was different than just healed or cured. That word is “sozo”. It means saved, delivered, protected. For this woman, as she approached fifty years of age, she wanted to be reminded to live a sozo life, not a so-so life. It is notable that the man who was made well was a foreigner who came back to find Jesus and thank him. Gratitude, it turns out, is the greatest component of the wholistic, holistic healing journey.
This is the kind of word I would have tattooed on my wrist. Sozo is just another name for the truth, as long as you are willing to believe it.
*Still on the market, sadly.
*still on the market