With Tattoos Across her Hands

She held out her hands to me, the new gold bangles sliding down her narrow arms. Her eyes twinkled as she grinned at the sight of me, and it amazes me that a child can capture your heart so easily. With one smile I wanted to take her into my arms and cuddle her closely.

Her hands reached up to mine, and she grasped my hand tightly in a greeting. It’s then that I noticed her hands, the black henna dancing across the soft brown of her skin. It curled and it wound; it twirled and it curved, delicate flowers and dots making their way across her fingers down to the nails. Her tiny hands lost themselves in my large ones, the patterns all but disappearing. She got up to hug me, and I noticed her feet as they slipped out from underneath the desk. Henna too decorated the sides of her feet, and it seemed to prance as her feet moved closer to mine.

Saturday marked the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, the celebration of Abraham offering his son (whom they believe to be Ishmael) as a sacrifice to God. Locals described it to us as the Muslim Christmas, and when I sat on the roof Saturday afternoon, I could hear the celebrations from across the town. It’s so easy to forget that the Muslims students we have in our class are, in fact, Muslims. Sometimes their eyes are lined with thick eyeliner, but other days they blend in with the class, closing their eyes during morning prayer and offering no reminder they serve a very different God than we do.

Until her hands closed around mine, the black henna and gold bangles a stark reminder of who she was and who she most likely always would be. It reminded me of what her life ahead would hold: a lifetime filled with symbolic washing; a lifetime filled with submitting to her husband in silence and reverence. It reminded me that as soon as she leaves school and is back home a headcovering is placed over her hair, and her beauty is cloaked behind fabric and religion.

Beautiful Mardiatu

And my heart cracks a little, for in my mind dances who she could be. I see her smile grinning with the love of a Jesus she talks to all day; I see her beautiful hair and face reflecting a Creator, no longer hidden behind a headcovering. I see her choosing her path in life, making decisions based on dreams planted firmly in her heart. And even farther still, I can see her dancing across the clouds when she’s finally called home, the beautiful creation she is with her tattooed hands reaching high above in worship to her Creator.

Because all I see when I look at her, when I see her tattoos across her hands, is beauty and so much potential. And I cling to the hope and pray that someday she will become what she was always created to be, with beautiful tattoos across her hands.