Three different people–in separate conversations– last weekend told me they loved my hair. Three hair compliments in a 48-hour period is a major score for any woman, but for someone who spent months “putting on” her hair , those three statements were like gold.
What’s funny is, I’m loving my hair these days, too. And not just because it’s my hair (although that is a plus). I’m loving the short ‘do…which is surprising, because thanks to a terrible Dorothy Hamill haircut in the eighth grade, I’ve been a long-hair girl most of my adult life.
Except for The Hair Catastrophe (as it came to be known) in my mid-20s…
I went in for a trim. What I got, instead, was a complete style makeover…and not a very good one. I don’t remember exactly what it looked like, but I do remember standing in front of the mirror, staring in horror at my reflection. I also remember my roommate walking in with a look of concerned terror and asking, “What happened?!” The events that followed are a bit fuzzy, but they may have included tears and a few “sick” days off work.
Yes, it’s just hair. And yes, it does grow back, but if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an over-zealous stylist, you know in that moment all you feel is panic–a dreadful feeling of I’m going to look like this until it grows out, and there’s nothing I can do about it! I have been there, my friend. I have been. there.
I had another, similar, experience just a few years ago. It wasn’t nearly as devastating as the first, but it was almost as painful. I asked for “a little shorter” and got several inches shorter. Instantly, that same feeling of dread came rushing back. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see was my 20-something-year-old self and that devastating haircut from a decade before.
Thoughts of my hair consumed me the rest of the day. Do I like it this short? Is it really cute? Or just weird? Can I pull off hair this short? I was convinced my thick, natural curl combined with the short cut made me look like a giant Q-Tip walking around!
That evening I was still reeling from the haircut and feeling very self-conscious when I ran into a friend. She had obviously been crying. She smiled at me weakly and said through her tears, “I like your hair.” Well, score one for my hair cut, I guess. But I couldn’t fully enjoy the victory. I knew why my friend was crying, and it had nothing to do with haircuts.
Her family was going through a terrible trial…one I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and I knew her tears were related to their situation. After my encounter with her, I began to think of my other friends who were facing overwhelming circumstances: one was still looking for a job after several months, one had lost a 9-month-old to a rare illness, one had been trying to sell a home for almost a year, one was facing surgery in just a few weeks, one had a sister battling a difficult form of cancer, one was in the middle of an unthinkable legal battle, and the list went on. I had been entirely consumed with my little world and my own insecurities, I hadn’t stopped to think about the needs of those around me.
In the previous weeks, I had spent hours talking with, listening to, and praying for these same friends and their situations. But that day it had been all about me. My hair and my situation had literally consumed my thoughts and energy.
It reminded me of how my children can sometimes be so completely consumed with their own problems they become oblivious to anything going on around them. How many times have I been in the middle of doing something for them (making dinner, doing laundry, etc.) only to have them come to me with a fresh list of demands, “Mom, I need you to…” “Where is my…” “Can you…” “He won’t let me…”
We tolerate, even expect, such selfishness from children, because self-absorption is a sign of immaturity. Children have to be taught to become aware of, and compassionate toward, those around them. It’s not often a trait they find on their own (although we’re so thankful when they do!).
Unfortunately, it’s also a sign of immaturity in me. When will I learn life is not really about me? There are times when we need to focus on our own needs–for health, for restoration, for healing of relationships. But when God brings us through those situations, we need to remember to turn our attention to others. When your biggest stress is a haircut gone awry, you’re in a pretty good place; you have time and energy to spend on someone else.
God, in His grace, will help us to look beyond ourselves, our needs, our daily “emergencies,” and find needs in others. When we do that, He can use us to demonstrate His love and meet the needs of those who are hurting.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:4, The Message)
This thing called life is about more than my wants, my insecurities, and my to-do list. God has designed us to do life together–helping each other, carrying one another’s burdens, and learning to serve one another in love. That’s what makes this thing called life worth it. That’s what God’s grace in action looks like. I pray that one of these days I’ll finally get over myself (and my hair) and remember that!
How can you show God’s love by helping someone in your life?
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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.