Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Wall I Hit

We all have different ideas about beauty. And we are all vulnerable when those ideas don’t meet reality. Plenty of us fight that extra weight that if we could just lose would help ego just a bit. Some of us struggle with skin or other body issues, but I don’t know one girl or woman who believes that they are beautiful just the way God made them. 

I am no different. That elusive five pounds I wanted to lose, the thicker hair I wanted, the thinner eyebrows, etc. Even when I looked my best, to me it wasn’t enough. I wanted more.

Then life changed. Twists and turns I couldn’t even begin to plot if I was writing fiction came about. The biggest surprise was my body telling me I’d done too much for too long. To make a long story short, my body rebelled. The first six weeks, I was desperate, frantic. I’ve visited doctors of all kinds, always asking the same thing, “Why is my hair falling out and how do I stop it?”
The answers varied, “Sometimes this just happens,” or “it was just a perfect storm,” or “some women after menopause lose their hair,” or “it’s an auto-immune, but we may never know what kind.”

The sense of vulnerability I felt was beyond anything I’ve experienced before. I was powerless to do anything and no doctor seemed to be able to help either. Powerless. And I had no explanation for friends and family, or the students I teach. 

Soon people were asking me what type of cancer I had. Others were wanting to know all the details. But I couldn’t claim the warrior battle I’ve seen so many others go through. I have a new respect for those women who’ve gone through cancer and come out the other end with no hair. They have no idea if their hair will grow back and all the reassurance in the world doesn’t quell the torrent of emotions inside. My guess is every woman who has battled cancer has had to confront the illusion of the word “beauty.” 

For weeks, my prayer was desperate. “Please Lord, stop my hair from falling out.” But that was not His Will. Instead, not only was the hair on top of my head falling out, but also my eyebrows and eyelashes as well. It was clear I was going to need to define a new idea about myself. I remembered a prayer of surrender I was given and I started praying it. 

I had loved ones telling me I was beautiful on the inside. However, I had heard that line more times than I care to remember when I was growing up. I was a homely kid, braces and glasses didn’t help. So I came to think whenever someone said I was beautiful on the inside it meant that I wasn’t on the outside. 

Those weren’t the words I was hoping to hear. One day, while cleaning the hair out of my drain, I began my prayer of surrender. Perhaps the Lord was trying to tell me to focus on my inside beauty.
Then God whispered to me something completely different than I ever expected. It was that His beauty was different than the world’s idea. Humans believe beauty to mean something physical and sometimes emotional. Lambasted by the media, we are never quite happy with ourselves.

But it took a second grader to remind me of something else. She told me she was praying for me. But then she told me, “God doesn’t make junk.” While I’ve never thought of myself as junk, I have always had that nagging thought that I’m not enough. People have verbalized that I’m not good enough throughout my life. And all this time I’ve believed it. 

To add to my journey, I ran into a sign. Literally. I was looking back, not looking forward and I hit a wall with a sign on it. My dad always told me, “Never look back, you can’t go back there anyway.” (God’s sense of humor gets me every time.) And what was on the sign? 

"God’s idea of beauty is not ours."

It took a wall to remind me of something I’d forgotten. God makes us for Him…not to be a runway model or to be desirable for each other. We wander through life believing the lies of what outer beauty can do for us, all the while forgetting that no matter what our looks are, we are all headed on the same journey, being with God after this life.

Looking in the mirror is still painful, I can no longer hide behind the long brown locks I once sported. The prayer of surrender is all that I have. But I am confident. While I’m still coming to grips with the whole surrender concept, it’s the first time since this hair saga began that I have peace. The prayer of surrender is working. What does it all mean? No clue…but I’m guessing I’m about to find out.