This odd phrase popped into my head a few months ago, as I was walking between my classes. I had just picked up a stray pen lying on the grass, unaware that it was leaking ink. It bled all over my hand, which I accidentally pressed all over the binding of the rented textbook I was carrying. That interesting phrase came to mind when I noticed the stains. But I didn’t quite know what it meant, and pursued it no further.
That is, until the next Thursday, when I walked confidently into a coffeeshop to meet a friend, to exchange story ideas for NaNoWriMo (a worldwide contest to write an entire novel during the month of November). My idea—an interesting plot based on a revolutionary idea— had been growing for the past few weeks, and though it dealt with some topics I didn’t know much about, I was confident in my imagination to fabricate experience. Then came a blow to my pride: she told me that my idea was almost cartoonish, and would not be taken seriously by readers because of the selected topic. She challenged me that I would have to be willing to completely enter the world of my main character— an unsavory and immoral male, to say the least— understand him, and think like him, in order to write this story well. That scared me, since this character was the last person I wanted to understand, much less think like.
I was left to puzzle over the dilemma for the next couple days, and discovered that it involved something deeper than a story idea: it involved deep-seated fear of being inexperienced and innocent. I had constructed a story idea that delves into a world I’ve never entered, somehow believing that I was much more experienced than I actually was.
So, I was left with a choice: either completely immerse myself in the world of my character, or trash the story idea; either get in difficult, open discussions with difficult people, or play it safe and choose a story idea that I really understood. After grappling with this, I came to an interesting conclusion: If I’m really going to be a writer, I’m not going to come out without ink-stained hands.
But the phrase can be taken another direction. Think of physicians: does having blood-covered hands make them guilty? I hope not!
Physicians have bloody hands because of their profession— healing wounds. They are willing, unafraid, to be stained by blood. Although their hands did not inflict the wounds, they choose to be responsible for wrongs, by proudly wearing the stains. Their example displays the truth: to have blood on your hands is to willingly touch wounded, bloody hearts, and never come away the same. Blood on you hands proves that you are not afraid to love the broken hearted, and in turn have your own heart stretched, cracked, broken, and wounded. It shows that you are willing to get your hands dirty, wading knee-deep through the broken, painful messes that fill the world. Humanity is a beautiful but messy thing, and you can’t dare try to understand it and touch it while keeping your hands clean.
If you go through with it, you will never be the same. The bloody ink can never be washed off. It becomes part of your hands, leaving a legacy of fingerprints on everything you touch.
But physicians aren’t the only ones who bear the blood of their profession; so do writers. Think about it: just like any other type of artist, writers’ work reflects the truths and realities of the world. The best stories and poems are the ones that cut straight past the appearance and delve into the heart, and they are written by people with ink stained hands. This sort of writer delves into wounded humanity with their writing, touching painful realities, digging deep into the mire, staining their hands with the cold, disgusting reality of the world. They will pull their hands back to find them stained in ink. The ink through which we pen truth and reality, pain and hope, will stain our hands, and will stamp itself upon everything we touch.
So, if you are a physician or a writer— why, if you’re a human— hold out your stained hands unashamedly. They are your seal and your signet. Love him whom the staunch and self-righteous would call dirty. See past people’s clean and unstained masks. Be acquainted with their pain. Enter danger with a pure motive and a whole heart. Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Don’t worry; my God is not afraid of blood.
Blood is a sign of life, and a sign of death. His blood is on our hands, his death at the hand of our sin. And yet our blood is on his healer’s hands, as he touches, purifies, and heals our cluttered hearts. My God is not afraid of blood, and to walk with him we must be covered with his blood.
In light of all this, I’m going to pursue the story, and for the next 11 months work on researching, seeking out wisdom, and asking questions of anyone who’s willing to answer them. Consciously striding out of my comfort zone will be terribly painful, transparent, and uncomfortable. I will not only have to receive statistical facts, but I will have to accept truth and understand the reality of their world. I will have to put my heart on the line, listen, and wait, and most importantly, act. There is no other way for those who choose to live and love.
Let me just close with this thought.
Searching for symbolism in the idea of “ink stains,” I did deep, accurate research: yep, I “googled” it. I typed, “ink stains” into the browser, and was interested to find that almost every single result related to how to remove them. “How to remove ink stains from clothing,” “how to remove them from furniture,” “how to remove them from carpet”— remove them from every place those inky fingerprints left a legacy— and how remove them from your hands.
These remedy articles show just how much we fear ink stains, fear what people will think of them, and fear the permanent marks they will leave. We only think of how to scrub them off. But they are meant to stay, and be spread. My God is not afraid of blood, so don’t be afraid of bloody ink. Press your hands onto the bloody wounds, and let those hands leave their ink-stained marks on the world.