There I sat, in a chair in the tattoo parlor, gazing at the assorted pictures and photos across the walls. Each one represented a mark on some person's body. Some were intricate and meaningful, others angry and violent, still others just silly. I (Kim) handed the artist a piece of paper with my choice for my tattoo: one word, diatribo.
"What's it say?" he asked, then tried to pronounce it.
"It's Greek," I said.
"What's it mean?" he asked.
"It literally means 'to rub between, to rub hard.' For me it means a shared life."
The artist smiled and began to prepare the apparatus. I am sure he had heard thousands of explanations for why people put particular words on their skin.
"Which way do you want it?" he asked. "Facing out, or is it for you to read?"
"This one's for me."
"Why this word?" he asked casually.
Why this word? It was used in the Bible to reflect shared life—abiding with one another, skin rubbing up against skin. Jesus shared his life with a small group of people. This incredible, kind, wise, loving teacher stuck with a bunch of young scalawags. And, along the way, who he was—his character, his nature—rubbed off on them.
I want to be like Jesus. I want to give my life to helping others. I want people to experience his grace and love and peace. I want Jesus to rub off of me and on to others, and I want Jesus to rub off of others and on to me.
Diatribo is one of my favorite words in the Bible. The English translations—"stayed with," "abided with,"—are insufficient to describe this sacred transaction between people. Diatribo is a way of life led by the Savior. I want to live with the same sacrificial purpose—that any good that God has redeemed in me and through me would graciously and generously rub off on others. It reminds me to give priority to relationships and to stay with the people God puts me with, even and maybe especially when staying is hard, when staying hurts.
I love people deeply. All people. A counselor once told me that I feel not only my pain, but also the pain of everyone in the room. I believe and see the best in people, and I make a habit of telling them how valuable they are.
I am not the smartest person in the Forge Mission Training Network. In fact, I am in awe of the authors and international consultants and world-famous preachers I get to work with. However, I have always known I was put on the earth to love others, not with some nominal, superficial, religious love, but with love like Christ's love, a giving of life for others.
I was taught that way of loving as a young Christian. I have connected easily with Forge's idea of shared life and discipleship, and mission as a way of life not a program, because that is how I experienced it firsthand as a young person; the youth leader couple in my church invested in me and shared their lives. They were like the big brother and sister I never had. I will always cherish their mentoring of me.
My youth pastor, Steve Swain, took me under his wing and spent time both teaching me about life and showing me how to live. He and his wife, Sonia, opened their home, fed me, and let me sleep over when I needed to. Even their kids embraced me; I was best man in their oldest son's wedding.
Steve was no pushover; there were many tears and hard conversations between us. I could not lie to him because he knew all my thoughts. I'd sit in his office, sweating excessively, as he asked me questions I had no answers to. Steve is one of the most stubborn, straight-talking, confrontational people I have ever met.