We were watching a tv show last night in which the wife was faced with the challenge of buying a gift for her husband – a nice guy who just happens to be impossible to shop for.

Welcome to my life.

My husband, the aforementioned minimalist, never needs or even wants anything. So when he came up with something he wanted for his birthday two years ago, I perked up and tuned in. He wanted one of the oldest and most widely practiced forms of artwork: a tattoo.

But being a minimalist doesn’t mean he’s low maintenance! This tattoo was two years of intense research, discussion and fact-checking in the making. The original idea is based on Ephesians 1:13 in the New Testament. It says:

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed this Message of your salvation, found yourselves home free — signed, sealed, and delivered by the Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us…

In Isaiah 44, in the Old Testament, it says:

This one will say, ‘I am God’s’; And another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to God’…

So he wanted a tattoo on his arm to signify being sealed by the Spirit, through Christ. And he wanted it in Ajami script, the Arabic-based orthographies used for writing African languages. This is where it got tricky. Allow me to explain…

In Senegal, as in most Muslim countries, Arabic is the language of religion. Arabic script is still used in Senegal today, particularly in Islamic culture. So researching this tattoo meant speaking with Islamic leaders and students in Senegal and France, asking about the cultural implications of tattooing, talking with Christ-followers from Muslim backgrounds… plus a whole bunch of people who read and write Arabic and Ajami scripts.

Enough drumroll? I thought so too. Here it is…

Up close and personal…

Happy birthday 2008, Cheikh!

Now, raise your hand if you would have guessed that I was the one more likely to get inked.