Rector's Ramblings March 31, 2021
Apparently, bets are being placed as to whether I will let my hair grow to pony-tail length before I cut it. The funny thing is, no one outside my family may ever know. Since I’ll be on sabbatical this summer, it may be short again by the time I return, with my lock length never to be disclosed! It does make me laugh to know that my hair has become a talking point. I know folks have noticed that I haven’t cut it since Christmas. I’ve had comments about it, mostly positive or playful. It’s not a COVID-thing per se, but a lesson learned in the COVID era is certainly at play.
I have not had a professional haircut in over a year. I took over cutting my hair during the pandemic using the clippers I already owned. It got a little longer between cuts, and maybe the neckline was a little off sometimes, but I managed ok. Not as good as some COVID-cuts, and better than others. Somewhere along the way, I decided to find out what happens when I don’t cut my hair for a bit. It’s easy enough to do, and easy enough to fix when I’ve had enough. So why have I had short hair for so long?
Pre-pandemic, I got a haircut every three week to make sure it didn’t get long. If I went five weeks between cuts for some reason, I couldn’t wait to get it trimmed. I have never really liked the waviness of my hair when it gets long, and I am blessed with a cowlick right smack in the front. I’d always tell the woman who cuts my hair to cut it short enough so that it didn’t begin to curl; that was the measuring stick. Short hair made that the only option. I’ve had a form of crew cut for a very long time as a result. In ministry, making my hair easy to manage and easy to keep in place was a way to control something in a vocation that is so uncontrollable.
Short hair also became a way to keep my appearance up to the standard I was taught early on, the same reason my family laughs at me sometimes when it comes to ironing clothes. If anyone holds up an article of clothing and asks me if it needs ironing, the answer is yes. It’s always yes. I use my iron every day that I “go to work,” and many days that I don’t. Hair that stays where I want it was a part of that process.
The pandemic didn’t change my need to iron clothes, at least the shirts that would show up on Zoom, even if I was wearing shorts on the bottom (early on in the pandemic my home office was the back porch while the kids were “in school” indoors). Ok, so I have ironed shorts, too. I will admit it. But I did learn a thing or two about being in control. Or not being in control, as the case may be. I’ve always been pretty resilient. I am normally a non-anxious leader (I do have my days though) who can handle unplanned things relatively well. I also know that my preference is for fewer surprises, which is why I am also made fun of in my family for planning out projects or trips beforehand with…healthy…amounts of detail. Even though plans change, the planning helps me manage the change better.
I wasn’t consciously aware of the relation between this tendency, the last year, and my hair when I decided to let it grow, but I have come to see how they are all intertwined. I have learned a certain level of comfort with rough edges and surrendering to the moment in new ways. I’ve become comfortable with the idea that my hair may get blown around and be disheveled on a windy day in the tent. I’ve learned (ok, I’m still learning) to go with the waves and the curls instead of fighting them. I’ve learned that I don’t have to know how my head of hair is going to look every day, because frankly, it looks different every day.
I am aware that this Lenten journey this year has once again reminded me that God has made us for imperfection. While we may strive to perfect ourselves in some ways, we are reminded that we will never achieve it. And more importantly, we’re reminded that God loves us with, if not because of, our imperfections. God knows us and loves us for who we are, even if God laments some of our failures and poor choices. I don’t think God really cares what we do with our hair, though. On one hand, this is all ridiculousness and vanity. I’m well aware of that. On the other, it’s an experiment and a journey in self-discovery of a sort I haven’t taken in my adult life. It’s certainly less permanent than tattoos, so there’s that! It’s also a kind of aversion therapy; even as my tendency is to cut it. Even I don’t know how long it will go or grow. Will I have a ponytail one day? Who knows? Only God. And God will love me no matter what length it is.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.
Photo Credits: Portrait of Charles Wesley, in the Public Domain. Barbershop by Paul Keller via flickr.com using Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.