By Stephen Cabe, contributing writer
Assured of what he is about to do, he takes one final glimpse of his reflection in the mirror. Nervously, he takes a breath as the needle begins to inject the dark black ink into his chest.
Tyler Coffey (sr) remembers one of the hardest decisions he ever made: following God’s calling to get something he knew his parents would dislike—a tattoo.
“God asked me to do it,” Coffey said. “He asked me to do probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Before Coffey got the tattoo two summers ago, he asked several people about the idea of getting a tattoo because he was still on the fence about it.
“[At summer camp] one of our speakers came, and he had this huge tattoo,” Coffey said. “I was just like, ‘Did that hurt?’ And he said, ‘Of course it hurt, but I wanted it to hurt,’ and I was like, ‘what?’”
The speaker explained how Jesus felt so much pain for humanity, so by getting a tattoo, he felt just a little bit of pain for Jesus.
“I was thinking if I ever got a tattoo, I wanted it to have a meaning like that,” Coffey said.
Until Coffey was assured by a verse his dad referenced, he was unsure whether he should get the tattoo permanently inscribed on his chest.
“When my dad referenced a specific Bible verse, I knew it that God was confirming for me that I was supposed to get the tattoo,” Coffey said. “I know I’m still in God’s will because of the different people I’ve been able to reach and the doors my tattoo has opened for me to talk to people.”
The verse that confirmed God’s calling for Coffey to get a tattoo was 1 Corinthians 13:11.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (NIV)
The tattoo is the starting point for Coffey to share his testimony and what God has done in and through his life.
This semester Danny Wogoman was one of the first people to hear the story of Coffey’s tattoo.
“I was definitely moved,” Wogoman said. “It made me think about the meaning behind tattoos, and I started wondering that maybe there’s more meaning behind other people’s tattoos that I don’t know.”
Coffey even shared his testimony with the tattoo artist when he was getting the tattoo.
“I was there for like an hour and a half, so I got to share my entire testimony,” Coffey said. “He really clung to parts of my testimony, and he didn’t say it with words, but God gave him a little bit of hope that day that there’s actually a person that cares.”
Growing up, Coffey had to overcome many obstacles, one of which was bullying.
“All the mean things people called me never had power over me until I began to accept those words as my identity,” Coffey said. “The speaker at our camp talked about the meaning behind words and how God gives us words with meaning. That’s when I asked God to give me three words.”
The three words God gave Coffey were love, hope, and faith—all of which are now tattooed in Hebrew in the shape of a triangle on his chest.
“[The way] I used to read the Bible I would take verses that were inspirational and (without the context) I would post them on Facebook, but it didn’t mean anything to me,” Coffey said. “It means more to me that my tattoo is in Hebrew because if it said it in English, I feel like it wouldn’t have the same meaning. And it makes people want to know what it means.”
Every time Coffey shares the story of his tattoo, it gets easier for him to also share his testimony.
A sports ministry major, Coffey hopes to use the story of his tattoo and his testimony to share Jesus with people in the present moments and in the future.
“My goal is to share the hope that God sees and cares for you when no one else does,” Coffey said. “And God will never stop trying to reach you anyway he can.”