Recently I heard comedian Jeff Foxworthy — that self-proclaimed redneck — say men never really lose their hair, it simply recedes into their brain and grows out other places, like their nose and ears.
Hair has been a concern for me all my life. In the fifth grade when my friends teased me for my hairy arms, I shaved them. I think fear had something to do with anticipating the day that many boys fear — the day when they begin to look like their balding father.
My fear only increased as I learned how much genetics had a play in it. Take for instance, my only brother, Milton. Well, since he might read this column, let’s just say he wears a lot of hats.
It was during those years that I formulated a prayer that remained on my lips for more than 20 years: “God, please, let me keep my hair at least until I’m 40.”
I call this my hair prayer.
I know, I know. I’m a chaplain and I should pray for world peace or something. And, well, I do that, too. But like many of you, I let a prayer slip by that is more about me than it should be.
I call these prayers vanity prayers. They are the beliefs that are aimed more at pampering ourselves than helping others. After all, we have our vanity surgeries, buy vanity license plates and sometimes even writers (gasp) use vanity presses.
Yet, in our hearts, we know these vanity products have little value. Still, we cling to them. We cling to them because through some kind of magical thinking, we believe they will come true simply because we tell ourselves they will. Not unlike how I tell myself the product I use to add “volume” to my balding hair really will actually add volume. No, not the kind of loud orange volume worn by basketball star Dennis Rodman, but “puffiness” as my kids call it.
Yet despite all our vanity prayers and products, Christian scripture suggests “the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” The verse implies a kind of question: Why do you worry about the fleeting things? What is it about you that makes you want to invest your time or your talents into what is not lasting?
If our future concerns become more about outward appearance, then we’ll not have the time to search honestly for eternal kinds of realities.
Meaning, at the end of the day, life has to be about searching for what remains. “Remains of the Day” is what British-Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro called it in his 1989 novel about a butler trying to come to terms with how he has spent his life and how he would make the best of what remains.
The whole point of the book, and I think the whole point of Jesus’ teaching, was that life has to include a daily spiritual examination and a search for what is eternal and lasting in life. So tonight, instead of looking for the remains of your hair on your pillow, examine your life and see what remains of your day.
And, uh, by the way, I read somewhere the hair I lose today was really hair that’s been growing the past 2 to 6 years. If there’s no hair to replace it, then nothing grows.
Dang! If that’s true, then I may already be bald. I just know that’s going to keep me awake tonight.