If you have known me for .5 seconds and particularly if you know my mother, you probably understand my ‘hair issue’. It’s an unusual auburn-red color naturally (thanks, Mom), is half straight and half curly, and the ends will flip under into a Mrs. Brady flip involuntarily. My head is a battlefield against humidity, the strains of motherhood, and the natural elements…and on this battleground, the South is going to win.
For a brief time in my childhood, I lived in New Jersey. My family attended a small Baptist church that was 80% comprised of Texans. Clearly God’s people were wandering in the wilderness together. In the middle of Yankeeville my sister and I walked into church in matching dresses, lacey socks, and our curls held back by huge bows. (Train up a child in the way she should go and when she is older she will not depart from it.) At an ugly Christmas Sweater party I went for Texas-sized hair, despite living in Arizona. I nearly caused a few wrecks on the way to the church, but I suppose that happens when one uses a tree topper as a hair accessory.
When I consider the ladies I hold most dear, many of them have trademark hair. One of these ladies is Beth Moore, the Christian speaker, teacher, and Bible Study leader. I have enjoyed many of her studies, the first of which I participated in after just arriving in South Korea. The study was “Stepping Up”- a study of the Psalms of the Ascent that the Israelites recited during their annual journeys back to Jerusalem from various lands. It was very fitting for military wives displaced in a foreign country. A few lessons in, Beth’s video describes her trip to the Houston Stock Fair and Rodeo and a bit about her ‘Texas hair’. As we broke into our discussion groups, I noticed there was a lot of whispering from the Korean wives who were learning English. One dear lady who often acted as the interpreter said, “They want to know about the hair thing. Can you explain?” Can I explain Texas hair?
This is Bible Study 101- establish common ground and relationships. I am sure the Lord looked down with that horrified parent look as I proceeded to transcend language barriers and explain the rodeo and Texas hair with interpretive dance. As an ambassador for Jesus it was my duty to finger-tease my hair and made a snack cookie diorama of the Jewish Temple for the cause of Christ. With the snack table and a properly packed handbag I was equipped for all good works. As I told this story to my newly married husband that night, he looked at me and said, “I don’t know why you think big hair is so important.” I answered, “The bigger the hair, the closer to God.” He rolled his eyes. He’ll learn to understand these things. It’s like putting dirty dishes into the washer and not just the sink, or not leaving dirty socks on the floor 2 feet from the hamper. He’ll get it eventually.
Last Christmas my sister came to visit. It was a wonderful time of restoration for me, topped off with an actual date night with my husband without the colicky, teething son. I gussied up for a night out in preparation for my date at Texas Roadhouse with my man. By the time we were seated, my cheeks hurt from smiling. After a roll or two, my beloved looked over the table at me and asked an earnest question. “Babe, since your sister’s been here I’ve noticed that your hair has been a lot bigger. I wondered if you are okay or if maybe you’re just studying more Beth Moore lately.” I am sure I stared dumbfounded at my husband for a few seconds as I tried to choose between laughter and a good response. I laughed and said, “See, this is why I love you. My hair is just a reflection that I took time for me and have raised spirits. In your defense, I am also in the middle of a great Beth Moore study. “
Now, I should clarify that “The hair thing” this is not a reflection of vanity. I have had my share of ponytail days and my hair fixin’ time takes less than 20 minutes when I’m “banging some hair” in the words of Dolly Parton. I just recognize a few simple truths:
1) Humidity is a manifestation of evil.
2) Control what you can and do your best with what you can’t. Hair falls into both categories.
3) The Bible says the body is a temple and calls a woman’s hair her glory. Fabulous hair is a Christian duty and bad hair-cuts are devastating. Remember Samson? Don’t ever get a bob from a hairdresser named Delilah.
4) When your hair is huge you must keep your chin up and hold your head high; it’s a Southern coping mechanism.
5) No matter how disastrous the day is, if you look in the mirror and see that your hair held up, you’re on the road to recovery. Lest we forget Dolly Parton’s consoling of Sally Fields in the Steel Magnolias funeral scene: “I don’t know how you’re feeling on the inside Honey, but your hair is just holding up beautiful.”
Great hair is biblical. Hair is mentioned over 95 times in the Bible. Old Testament trivia: the most obvious way to identify a person’s mourning was by their ripped garments and disheveled, dirty hair. Tearing out hair to indicate deep emotional distress was common among prophets who mourned Israel’s idolatry. (Amen, exasperated mothers?) Scripture notes God’s protection of his people in a common way by protecting even their hair. “Not a hair on their heads were singed.”(Dan 3:27) “Not a hair on your head shall fall to the ground.” (1 Ki 1:52, 1 Sam 14:34) After mourning and repentance, God continually promised to restore the beauty of his people with clothing and adornments. He also promised to be with us until our hair is gray. There are many warnings about vanity, pride, and over-adorning, but hair is a clear symbol in the Bible.
A friend who really struggled through today texted me a SOS. I told her I’d run to her with a chocolate IV and a hairbrush for a rescue; no girlfriend of mine will be taken down by her kids and left for frumpy. We will not be outdone by Elton John and Ru Paul! We aren’t shallow- we understand how fundamental inner and outer beauty is as a reflection of how we are really doing. During a 2009 deployment, a dear friend identified my need to go to the ER by the simple fact that I came to church without curled hair or heels. She charged me in her typical Patton-esque fashion. “You must be dying, and you aren’t meeting Jesus like this. I’m driving you to the hospital.” God bless her. I wouldn’t have gone without her intervention; I was in surgery within the month.
As women (especially Southern women) we know that if a friend is in the hospital for an extended length, you care for the deep needs. You bring a meal, watch the kids, and visit. In hospital rooms I’ve witnessed women wash the hair of others, paint nails, and bring the healing medicine of laughter to those in need. These are deep needs. It’s heartfelt care-giving at the basic level.
Today my friends and the Holy Spirit teamed up to perform triage. Rather than wallow in self-pity, frustration, or anger, I battled through and emerged uplifted with a correct focus. It shows in the perks of my roots. God is interested in impacting all of me- getting into my heart, my head, my life, and even my hair. Scripture declares that he knows how many hairs I have on my head, after all. It may be only a reflection, but in today’s case, “The bigger the hair, the closer to God.”