“There’s this scene in the book East of Eden when the characters are looking at the difference translations of Genesis 3:16. It’s the verse where God tells Cain about ruling over his sin. In one version, God says, ‘thou shalt rule over,’ which is a command. In another, He says ‘you will rule over,’ this is a guarantee. But in the Hebrew version, God uses the word ‘Timshel,’ which translates to ‘thou mayest rule over thy sin.’ That is a choice.”
Jacob and Amber twisted their arms to show the same word, “Timshel,” tattooed in different fonts, which they got done at Nashville Ink Tatoo.
“I find myself resonating with characters when I read books,” Amber began. “I guess everyone does that, but I really connected with Cal who is linked with Cain. Cal thinks he is destined for a path he does not want, and he is convinced there is nothing he can do to fix it. As his father dies at the end of the book, he tells Cal one word: Timshel. It is a reminder to Cal that he has a choice now to decide the path he wants. That’s something I learned from the book; we don’t have predestined paths, it’s all a choice.”
“Everything is Timshel,” Jacob agreed. “This tattoo is such a reminder that I always have a choice. God is working all around us, all we need are eyes to see and ears to hear Him. We are always presented with choices, we just have to say yes to God’s.”
“It sounds so simple,” Amber said, somewhat incredulously.
“It does, but it’s not! It shows how hard it is to be human!” Jacob laughed.
Amber nodded. “I also think it marks where we are, it’s an anchor point. The word I was going to get was about the gray areas in life, but Timshel is about me. It’s more personal, it’s about everyday choices
I next asked them how Timshel was represented in their personal lives.
“I’ll go first,” Jacob volunteered. “I find I can be all talk and not enough do. In Ethos actually, the pastor was talking about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing all these facts, but wisdom is about taking action based off of what you know. It is not good enough to know and not to do.
“I want to be a man of action, not of words. Some dudes and I get together here at the Well on Fridays, and this has been the theme of our meetings. We say a lot of times, ‘I want to do this,’ but instead of sitting complacently by, we challenge each other to think of two things to do to make that wish happen. All you have to do is take the first step, to make the first choice, and to start working towards that.”
Jacob turned to Amber and she began. “I had a lot of learning moments this summer, about how I view friendships and about how I view my relationship with God. Actually, that was the big one. I am often complacent when it comes to my relationship with God. I didn’t want to live like that anymore, and I realized this summer that He was basically saying to me, ‘You just have to make the step in the right direction. Look at me, and I’ll direct you.’ It’s a small step here and there. It’s about choosing to be uncomfortable when I don’t want to be uncomfortable. About choosing to be active when I’m not content with something. It’s about not sitting comfortably in my friendships- there’s so much learning about each other to be done. It requires us to ask the hard questions.
“I sometimes find my worth in my friendships and my school. It leads to insecurities. This year, I’m practicing to choose peace, to choose not be overcome by barriers. What’s cool is that this tattoo marks this learning period in my life. It marks when I decided to be intentional with God and when I decided to be uncomfortable.”
I asked them to talk about what the tattoo meant to their friendship. The both looked at each other. “Honestly, last year was hard,” Jacob began.
“Last year was so hard,” Amber passionately agreed.
“There was a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out) last year, our friend group kind of split up for a time when we all went to study abroad. I went through a drought where I didn’t have the authentic friendships from home and it made me realize and appreciate what I had back in Nashville.”
“I hate using the word intentional because I sound so Church of Christ,” Amber laughed, “But it’s true, we have to be intentional. We know who our closest people are.”
“Exactly, we need to focus on the choice to pursue each other in the deep love of friendship,” Jacob said.
“Honestly,” Amber continued, “It’s a hard choice, it’s inconvenient. You have to make time and plan to meet with someone, but that’s what makes it such a fruitful time. That’s when friendships become a little more real. That’s when you start seeing all sides of a person, and in that moment when you see them at their lowest, you have to decide if you want to stay their friend. But that makes it so real.”
Jacob nodded. “It’s so true, that’s what makes a true friendship. You’ve seen all sides of me.”
“Yeah, and you’ve seen me at my lowest this summer,” Amber laughed.
“College is all about growing too. You exponentially grow, especially during your freshmen and sophomore years, you become so different.”
“And I think friends are a big part in that,” Amber commented.
“They really are. You want to know a person, look at their five closest friends, and you’ll know who they are.”
At the end of it all, I told them that East of Eden just moved to the top of my reading list because of this.
“You need to read it,” Jacob persisted. “I tell this to everyone. Honestly, if you’re more than a potato, you need to read this book.”
“Jacob tries to tell everyone a scene by scene summary when they ask him about it,” Amber laughed. “But all you need to say is that it’s about choice. That’s all there is to it. It’s about Timshel.”