Thou Mayest

About two months ago now, i sat in this flat with my mum and said, "i think i'm going to get a tattoo."

i was struggling at the time - that animal called depression having stuck its claws beneath my skin yet again - and i knew that, with the end of a college year (and, indeed, course) rapidly approaching, things were about to get a whole lot more difficult.

i had classes to attend, an exam to sit, 7500 words of essays to write, placements to pass, a back-log of reflections to complete and a brain that, quite literally, couldn't focus for longer than five words. My world was heavy and dark and i couldn't see any possible way to make it through.

i needed some encouragement and decided, as motivation and reminder, that i would get a tattoo - the word 'timshel' in Hebrew letters on the inside of my left wrist.

Reflecting on the Biblical story of Cain & Abel in his beautiful 'East of Eden', John Steinbeck writes in reference to the word 'timshel':

"Why is this word so important?"

"Don't you see?" he cried. "The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in "Thou shalt," meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel - 'Thou mayest' - that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest' - it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' Don't you see?"

"Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?"

"'Thou mayest!' Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win!"

"I feel that a man is a very important thing - maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed - because 'Thou mayest.'"

(Steinbeck, paraphrased from 'East of Eden' pages 305-306)

"It is always attacked and never destroyed - because 'Thou mayest.'"

Thou mayest. Timshel. It seemed like the perfect choice for a tattoo.

And so i got my ink, i put my head down, i cried a lot of tears and i carried on.

And now, two months further on, i sit here in the knowledge that it is done.

For the time-being, the depression is once again gone. My classes are finished; my placements are ticked and complete; i passed every one of this semester's essays and exams with 90%; and this Saturday i will finally graduate from ICC with my degree.

The road to this point has been long and winding. It's been hard. i sit here now feeling relief that it's all over. And i know that, for a while, it's time to stop.

i'm looking forward to the journey that's about to begin. i have no idea where i'm going and, for now, that excites me. i'm enjoying living in the uncertainty that's entirely in the hands of God.

For now, i'm excited at the chance to take a break. i'm excited at the prospect of a summer free from essays or work, spent catching up with the people and the things that i love - taking hundreds of photos and writing four years worth of neglected words.

i'm saddened at the closing of these doors, but i'm excited for a new thing to begin.

i'm sure it'll be another curious summer, travelling along another weaving (but perhaps less bumpy) road. i wanted some way to document it - to gather all the photographs and words and to track the next steps God takes me on - and settled on yet another blog.

If you can bear to read my ramblings, hit the follow button; subscribe to the feed; add me to your 'roll'; or do whatever it is that you do. i'd love to travel along this 'road' with you.

Let's see where this thing goes.

With relief & anticipation,

- Laura

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  1. Laura
    I always knew that you would make it. Sometimes the road is winding and bumpy by with God with us we can keep on the right road. Well done I look forward to graduation and will be proud of all you have done to get there.
    God bless you in whatever he leads you into next.

  2. Stumbled on this blog from Daniel's Blog... Recognised 'timshel' - my "name" may give a reason as to why it caught my attention.

    A Prayer:

    The Tefilat Haderech

    May it be Your will, LORD, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who hears prayer.


  3. Hey there,

    I found your blog while looking for the Hebrew characters for the word "Timshel." Why? Because I want to have it tattooed on the inside of my left wrist. The passage from Steinbeck has been close to my heart for a number of years now. I try to keep the message in the forefront of my mind as I move along through life, and I try to share it with others as often as I can.

    To my great surprise, I've stumbled upon someone else for whom this message is of an importance profound enough to inscribe it on her body. Even the same location I had planned! So, just wanted to let you know that soon there will be someone else with ink in common! Cheers to you!

    I wish you the best, and I hope the past year has seen an improvement in your well-being.