Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Being My Own Barber

For the past five years, I have shaved my head--mostly down to just a bare bit of stubble, Andre Agassi-style--as a result of baldness setting in at a very early age (really, my hair was probably starting to fall out by the time I could legally purchase lottery tickets).  I like it, for the most part--yes, I have to either wear sunscreen or a hat in the summer, but as far as a ratio of stylishness to time and money invested, shaving your head really cannot be beat.  I don't have to do anything to it in the morning, I have done it so many times that I am down to about five minutes to shave and rinse, and the only money I spend on it is buying a new electric razor every couple of years after the old one wears out.  I highly recommend it.

Last week, though, as I was going about making my head all bald, I remembered--and I honestly have no idea why--a devotional I wrote a few years ago while I was in seminary and at my field education posting about how shaving my head has become a spiritual practice.

And I realized that somewhere between then and now, I had lost touch with that spiritual practice.  Shaving my head had become purely mundane again.

Realizing this wasn't a good feeling--it was, essentially, having to admit that I had taken a step backward spiritually, even in a relatively very small part of my life.

So I'm trying to get back into seeing the spiritual in the mundane again, and that includes my hairstyle.  And I'm sharing the devotional with you here (below, in italics), in the hopes that maybe it can do for you what it did for me--remind you of just how ever-present God is in our lives.

Yours in Christ,

I have been shaving my head for two years. As a teenager, pattern baldness began setting in, and after a spectacularly ill-advised attempt to grow my hair out during college (there are pictures on Facebook if you forgot what I looked like with a ponytail between the years of 2005-2008!), I have been for the past year the second extremely bald guy on the pastoral staff of First Christian Church of Concord (along with the senior pastor, Russ Peterman). 

Lately, though, my weekly ritual of firing up the electric razor and running it across my head has taken on a more spiritual dimension. Part of me wants to blame this on the fact that earlier this year, I wrapped up a very spiritual Lent for 2010, but I think it more has to do with my desire to find a deeper meaning for why I adorn myself the way I do. The reason "it looks good on me" just doesn't cut it anymore. 

In the Old Testament, there was a man named Manoah, who was to be the father of the Israelite hero Samson. Manoah is told by an angel that Samson is to be set apart as a Nazirite-that is, he will be consecrated to God's service, and as a sign of this, no razor shall ever touch his head. 

Though I have come to believe that we are all, as divine children, consecrated by God, I am beginning to see newfound connections to other fellow children by right of my shaved head-children who share my lack of locks but who, unlike me, lost their hair involuntarily-children for whom the razor was not a choice. 

As I drag my razor across my scalp, I pray for all those who have faced down the struggle of cancer, and who have seen their hair tumble down as a result of chemotherapy. 

As I trace my razor around my temples, I think of the Jewish women whose hair was forcibly shorn in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, of those whose bodies were seen as no longer their own.

As I sweep my razor down my neck, I recall the hospital patients whose hair is removed in preparation for surgery, and who courageously cling to their dignity as their doctors work to save their lives.

And as I bow down to wash my head afterwards, I give thanks for all the people-including my sister-who have donated their own hair to organizations like Locks of Love. 

We shape and mold our hair, we wash and dry it. We dye it and dread it, style it and lose it. And sometimes, we cut it off and give it away. 

What a wonderful badge of our own humanity.

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