I have been considering passages in the Bible that speak to the follicly challenged (see the image below if you wonder why I am writing about this):
Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Psalm 40:12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.
It seems that counting the hairs on a person’s head is important in the Bible. I have often reflected on the first passage. If the hairs of my head are numbered and are disappearing, are they falling out in numerical order? If not, each time one falls out they will have to be renumbered. Keeping track of that is a full time job in itself! And although the number is diminishing at present what would happen if I had a hair transplant? Do the new hairs count? To the hirsuit these things don’t matter but to those blessed with a short back and shine it’s important.
And then there’s the second passage. Does this suggest that those who are losing their hair have less troubles and sins? They certainly don’t have to worry about vanity and having bad hair days so maybe there’s some truth in that.
Of course the real point here is that God is intimately interested in us. He does not sit aloof on a cloud ticking off the hairs (and adjusting the records when we have visited the barbers) but he knows all about us, and he still loves us. He knows about the troubles and sins, and he still loves us. There is nothing we can do to change that (even shaving our head!).
Yesterday was a Bank Holiday in England and was predicted to be the hottest day of the year so far (not difficult). Sally and I went out in the morning and I went equipped with a cap to stop the top of my head from getting sunburnt in the scorching heat.
For those who are not follicly challenged like me, the wearing of a hat is optional – a fashion decision. When God has decided to reveal the true beauty of the scalp he has given you by removing the hair that covers it you need to be prepared to cover it in order to protect it (and also prevent glare from the shine causing distress to others).
One of the things I have discovered from my increased cap-wearing is that you have to live with the consequences of deciding to wear a cap. Because there is no fringe on the forehead of the non-hirsute head any lines that are caused by wearing the cap will be very visible when you take it off. So, unless you don’t mind looking like you have a very big frown line, you have to decide to keep the cap on for long periods of time. That means that the tradition of taking your hat off when you go indoors is eschewed in favour of not having people point at your head laughing. Hats remain un-doffed to ladies. And when you continue to wear the hat when the sun has hidden itself you risk looking like someone who is trying (and failing) to make a fashion statement.
Yesterday was not a scorching hot day in the Colchester area. I would describe it as Wesley weather. (John Wesley describes the moment when he became a Christian as his heart being ‘strangely warmed’.) The cloud cover was sufficient that the sun played ‘hide and seek’ during much of the day and I reluctantly realised that the silliness of a man in his mid 40s (I know, I look much older) wearing a baseball cap (oriented correctly I should add) was greater than the temporary silliness of having a line across the front of my head. After a little while that line would disappear and I would look ‘normal’ again. (Yes, I know, I don’t look normal at the best of times, but you know what I mean!)
At the same time I was also aware that wearing a cap covered the surgery scar that I have in the back of my head. It is in the middle of what little hair I have left and is very obvious. I used to be very self-conscious about it but now I hardly give it a second thought. Yesterday the thought occurred to me briefly as I contemplated the line at the front that it would distract people from the scar at the back.
So many of the worries and concerns we have in life are like the lines on a bald man’s head. They are things that make a mark on us, but it is a temporary mark. It will fade. It will pass. In days gone by today’s news was wrapped around tomorrow’s fish and chips* and that was a metaphor for the transitory nature of many of life’s issues and problems. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells people not to worry so much because God’s got them in mind and worrying won’t change anything anyway. If God has us in mind we can relax a bit more.
Now I do know that not all of the things that worry and concern us are transitory. Some things make a lasting scar on us (like the one on the back of my head). But just because we are scarred does not mean we are defined by our scars. We carry them with us always. Yet they do fade a bit and can be reminders not only of the painful experience of life but also of God’s faithful presence with us even in the darkest of times.
I usually close my bloggages with ‘Be blessed, be a blessing’ but today (as well as that) I want to offer you a blessing that is based on 1 Kings 8:
The Lord, the righteous God, make his face to shine upon you, the Lord fill you with a joy greater than all this world can give, the Lord make you to sleep in peace and to dwell in safety; and the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always.
*why do they use plain paper now instead of recycling newspaper?
Yesterday I posted this picture on Facebook with the caption ‘Nick was wondering whether God had misheard his prayers for boldness’. The pun was intentional.
It was inspired (?) by the preparation I had been doing for Sunday evening, looking at Acts 4 and noticing that the Christians prayed for boldness. It was in the face of the first serious opposition the church had faced since Jesus had ascended into heaven.
Rather than praying that God would smite their opponents, or at least stop them from being so mean, or praying that God would help them to survive, they prayed for boldness to proclaim the message of Jesus. I love that!
So often when I have problems I pray that God will solve them for me. On the occasions when I have been criticised I have prayed for truth and grace. On the few occasions when people have opposed what I have been doing I have prayed for perseverance and that God would vindicate me (not so gracious, I know). But I rarely pray simply for boldness to proclaim the message of Jesus.
If I am called to be a free sample of Jesus, then my first prayer should always be about being able to do that as well as God’s Spirit enables me to. The rest of my life is secondary. This morning I was with a colleague taking an assembly at a school whose motto is ‘God first, other second, self last.’
In case you were wondering about the lack of fresh bloggerel yesterday, there is a very simple explanation…
I didn’t write anything.
And there’s a very simple explanation about why I didn’t write anything…
It was a Bank Holiday here in the UK and I took the day off. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t being reflective (you only have to check out the shiny top of my head to know I am always reflective) but I decided not to blog about it. Except that today’s first entry was written yesterday evening, so in fact I did post some bloggerel yesterday, it was simply posted online later.
Be even more blessed, be even more of a blessing!
(And yes, I have changed the look of the blog again!)
cover your hairloss by sitting next to your daughter
I need to face the bald facts. My hair is disappearing. Male Pattern Baldness is here to stay. I was reflecting on this fact today as I cut my hair and have discerned a few warning signals that some of you may like to consider for yourself or the men in your lives…
Signs you are going bald:
1. It takes longer to wash your face than cut your hair.
2. Your barber gives you a discount.
3. You get more annoyed at bad hairstyles from people who have hair.
4. You find yourself (for just a millisecond) wondering if you could emulate Donald Trump and get away with it.
5. Your children look at your wedding photos and laugh at how much hair you had.
6. You realise that God is now counting backwards. (Matthew 10:30)
If you experience one of these signs you may be going bald. If you have experienced them all then you are going bald. I have experienced them all. I should say that number 4 was only for a fraction of a part of a millisecond. I mean… seriously? Could you imagine if he did get elected as President of the USA? I suppose one benefit would be that in all of the photocalls everyone would be smiling broadly.
I can remember the moment when I first contemplated my hair loss. I was at Spurgeon’s College and bumped into the lovely man who used to be one of my ministers in Torquay (hi Pete!). He was never afraid to say what he thought and simply said, “Ooh, you’re losing your hair a bit aren’t you?”
I denied it at the time but then rushed to the bathroom and looked in the mirror to see, to my horror, that he was right. The hairline was receding at the sides above my temples. Accepting the truth was not easy, but I am now comfortable with the reality of my hairloss and am not going to waste time or money on products that claim to make hair regrow or transplants. However there was an interesting article on the news yesterday about a new product…
The point I want to make is that Pete was not afraid to speak the truth. I might not have wanted to hear it or admit it, but it was the truth nonetheless. Jesus invites us all to speak the truth, but laced with compassion and love. It’s not easy. How can we tell someone that their critical attitude is upsetting others without upsetting them? How can we explain to someone that they have a personal hygiene problem? How can we ask someone to stop gossiping? How can we tell someone that they need to apologise to someone else for an unfounded accusation?
I think that the answer to those is that they are not easy, but the depth and quality of our relationships with those people will make it easier. If we claim to speak out of love but don’t actually demonstrate that love then we are like a resounding gong… it makes a big noise and will annoy people but it won’t help much.
I had a traumatic experience on Wednesday. It involved flashbacks, anxiety, envy, a pair of scissors and some money.
On Wednesday I took my daughter somewhere that brought back pleasant memories for me. It reminded me of relaxing and pleasant times in my past that will never happen again.
I took her to the hairdressers.
I sat in a chair watching from afar while the hairdresser did her thing to Hannah’s hair. I reminisced about how relaxing it was when I used to have my hair cut. There was something so calming about having someone cut my hair while making small talk about where I was going on my holidays and what I did for a living (which often led to: “Oh”-style responses).
Now I normally cut my own hair with a pair of clippers. No, it doesn’t take long – thanks for asking. But before my Mum’s wedding last year I decided to treat myself and went to a nearby Barber’s shop. As I went in the barber looked at me and paused.
“Thank you for not laughing,” I said. I then confirmed that I was there for a haircut. I wanted him to clip my hair.
It was unsatisfactory for several reasons:
It did not take long at all. Not even long enough for him to find out my holiday plans.
I felt rather silly sitting in the chair with other customers looking on and wondering why I was bothering.
At the end of the haircut the barber charged me a couple of quid less than full price!
I felt disappointed, embarrassed and a little sad. It was not the relaxing, gentle experience of my youth (when I had luxuriant hair).
I have not dared to go back.
It seems that nostalgia is not what it used to be. I am amused but not surprised at the complaints of the Hebrews escaping from Egypt under Moses, who started grumbling quite quickly and decided that they wanted to go back to Egypt. What, back to the slavery, torture and perhaps even certain death?
How many times do I ‘want to go back to Egypt’? Do I hark back to the ‘good old days’? Do I reminisce about what God did with me in the past? There’s nothing wrong with remembering (eg Communion!) but good remembering is about reflecting on God’s actions in the past to reassure and encourage to face the present and the future.
I refer you to the joke I made here as it seems immensely apt.
Vicar in sermon: “This morning as I was shaving I was thinking about my sermon and cut myself.”
Comment on door after service: “Next time Vicar, think about shaving and cut the sermon.”
This morning as I was shaving I had a thought: why is it that I go bald on the top of my head and not at all on my face? I would much rather be facially bald and not have to shave while having a full head of hair. What is the benefit to me of having a bald head and a hairy face? My wife refuses to kiss me if I have facial hair (I had to have a goatee for a short while when I cut my chin open and could not shave) and my head gets cold in the winter. Some error in the evolutionary process surely.
Me as a lego character
So, my little blogophiles, what does this depilatory rumination suggest to you? Has God made a mistake? When he was designing the male head did someone cross the wires? Is this God’s way of making things easier for himself (see Matthew 10:30)? Or is it God’s way of ensuring that male vanity is kept under control?
I would venture to suggest that none of the above is true. I know that I am known by God better than I know myself. And yes he does know how many hairs are on my head, but he is more interested in who I am than how I am. No, God has not made a mistake, but he has made me. My baldness is part of that. I find that it is a trigger for humour and laughter (not always instigated by me, admittedly). Accepting that I am bald (and steadfastly refusing the comb-over option) has been healthy for me as I realise that God loves me as I am, even more than Sally does. Accepting our bodies comes from recognising that God accepts us for who we are.
But most of all the shiny pate that greets me when I look in the mirror reminds me that God does not want me to remain the same. Not so much physically (although I could lose a couple of pounds) and definitely not by wearing a wig or getting a hair transplant, but spiritually. He wants me to mature, to grow, to be better than I was this time last year – and he gives me his Spirit to help me to do this. A while ago Sally found a photo that was taken on the day we got engaged. I love that photo because when I look at it I am very different today. I hope and pray that this is not just because I had a fuller head of hair!
And anyway bald men have a great advantage over those who have hair. Although it takes us longer to wash our face it takes less time to wash and dry our hair.
When you are losing your hair you have to start thinking about different things. Those of you with a full head of hair will not have to worry so much about getting the top of your head sunburnt, or whether people will be blinded by the glare of light reflected off your head. I had a bald teacher at school whose hairstyle was described as ‘short back and shine’. Now I know how he feels.
In response to these challenges I have a growing collection of hats. I didn’t think I would be saying that when growing up. Most of them are caps, with variations according to mood, temperature and what I am wearing (yes, I do try to think about that sometimes). Now that the weather is warmer and the sun is showing its face my favourite hat is now able to come out of the cupboard again. Whenever I wear it I am sure that I can hear someone humming the theme tune to Indiana Jones. What do you think?
I have one more weapon against the side effects of baldness. A while ago Sally came back from a Body Shop party hosted by one of her friends with a present for me. Those of you who know her will recognise the mischievous sparkle in her eyes that I saw as she handed over a small bag. Inside was a small bottle of stuff I am supposed to put on my bald head to stop it shining.
In the Bible there is a wonderful verse that shows how intimately God knows us and how much he loves and values us – Matthew 10:30. “Even the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” I have a feeling that God is in heaven with a megaphone calling to the hairs on my head: “Come in number 389/78 your time is up!” I reckon my body is simply making God’s job easier by jettisoning hairs. But how special do you feel that God knows that much about you?
Tony Campolo (with whom I have a hairstyle in common) has two wise sayings about baldness:
“To some people God gave beautiful heads, to the rest he had to give hair.” and “Why waste hormones on hair?”