Missing Persons, Suspects, and Convicts

 My Distinguishing Mark (Written in Dermatographia). July, 2011.

Distinguishing Marks

Driving home the other day I passed police activity at the side of the road. A squad car blocked the bicycle lane, its lights spinning round like an amped-up lighthouse, as the officer spoke to the driver of a compact car with a fat tailpipe and spoiler.

I remembered a time, years ago now, when a rookie cop and his trainer had responded to my call reporting suspicious activity in my neighborhood. I described what I’d seen: people jumping a fence and prying up the wooden hatch on the root cellar of a vacant bungalow two doors down.

The young officer nodded. Then he asked me for my name, place of birth, and identification. As he studied my drivers license, he asked, “Do you have any distinguishing marks? Scars, birthmarks, tattoos?”

I raised one eyebrow and glanced at the senior officer. “Um, aren’t those the questions you ask the bad guys?”

“We collect that information about missing persons, too, Ma’am.” 

It was an odd exchange, long forgotten. But when it arose in my recollection, it set me to thinking about my own history as suspect, missing person, and convict.

We’ve all had occasions where we’ve been suspected of doing wrong. When we’re guilty, the suspicion swirling about makes us nervous; when we’re innocent, it stirs indignation.

I spent a chunk of my life as a missing person, too, having only a dim awareness of my Father and His love for me. A few years ago God found me and I joyfully took my place in His family.

And then I learned that I’m a convict. My life story is a rap sheet of crimes and misdemeanors committed against God’s will.

God knows I’m a convict and He loves me anyway. He knows every blemish of my heart, every scar I’ve left on someone else’s heart–and still He paid my fine with the blood of His Son. From here on, may my salvation be my only distinguishing mark.

 1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 (NASB)


  1. I agree it was an odd exchange. The one with the police officer, and the one where God let Jesus exchange holiness for my mess.

    OK. Now you have to explain that distinguishing mark in the photo.

  2. Yes, Deidra…but the latter exchange you mention is wonderfully, blessedly odd!

    As for the distinguishing mark, it’s called “dermatographia.” Twice now, following surgery, I’ve developed this condition. In 2008 it persisted for 3 months. This time we’re just past the six-month mark. It’s a weird kind of pressure-induced hives:

  3. I liked your analogy of us being a convict and missing person until God found us and changed our ID to be HIS.

  4. Thanks, Hazel.

    For me the most amazing part is this:

    My pardon was written a few thousand years before I was born. I just had to step up and claim it.

  5. Got me one of those rap sheets.

    Funny though, I seem to recall it far better than He does. he keeps muttering about not remembering where He put it, something about the east, or maybe the west. 😉

    We’re all those things, though, aren’t we? Until He makes us what we really, truly were meant to be. Love this piece. And aside from being able to mark yourself up cool, hoping your dermatographer vocation winds down soon.

  6. Lyla,
    We are! And He loves us anyway! Isn’t that something?

    Thanks for your kind words. I’m ready to be done with cool skin effects…though the grandkids dig it.

  7. Very interesting twist on all having been convicted of sin! The skin thing is very cool! My 14 yr old loves to do that because “chicks dig scars”! At most these light marks will hopefully vanish as new skin grows in; just as Jesus is growing and creates new life in us! Blessings fill your writing! Thank you!

  8. Thanks for coming by. The “skin thing” doesn’t leave scars. These are like hives and they fade away again over the course of an hour or so.

    I hope your son isn’t hurting himself.

  9. Unknown….if you’d like to chat more about your son, feel free to post again here or send me an email. sheila@godspotting.net

  10. My daughter has this skin condition all the time–I should show her this post if only to admire the way you’ve used it as an unusual expression of praise!

    It works so well with the message in your post, Sheila. You are such a creative convict! 🙂

  11. Ann,
    I’m sorry to hear that. It’s not much fun. Clearly in the “annoyance” category rather than the “threat to health” category–and I give thanks for that–but I’m ready to be done with these.

    And thank you for your kind words.

  12. Sheila,

    It’s criminal, isn’t it? But for God …

    I have a T-shirt with the words: “I am the wretch the song refers to.”

    And that He takes me anyway? Astounding…

  13. Absolutely, Jennifer.

  14. Guilty. I hate saying it, or admitting it, but it’s true. Thank God for His mercy.

    PS, I have just started up again on Romans this week, so will get a good reminder of this.

  15. Romans is a great place to read about the verdict….and the pardon.

    Thanks for stopping by!