I turned 55 a few months ago and reached the conclusion that I’m not really losing my hair; I’m just watching it grow out my nose and ears.
The truth is that hair loss has concerned me ever since I was 10 years old, when my mother told me that genetics had predestined me to resemble her balding father. It was sometime after her prediction that my friends began teasing me about my hairy arms. My reaction was to shave my peach-fuzzed extremities. Perhaps this is way too much information for your morning cereal, but stay with me for another moment.
It was during my early years that I formulated a prayer that remained on my lips for more than 20 years: “God, please, let me keep my hair until I’m at least 40 years old.”
I called this my “hair prayer” and for the most part, it’s been answered with a handful of silver hair.
I know, I know. I’m a chaplain and I should be praying for world peace or something. Well, I do that, too. But like many of you, I sometimes mutter prayers that are more about me than they should be.
I call these prayers “vanity prayers.” Everyone prays them at one time or another. They represent our entitlement beliefs and they are more about pampering ourselves than they are about helping others. After all, we have our vanity surgeries, we buy vanity license plates and sometimes, even writers will (gasp) use vanity presses.
In our hearts, we know these vanity products have little value. Still, we cling to them. We cling to them with magical thinking, believing they will come true simply because we will them to become true. This belief is not unlike how I tell myself that the product I use in my hair will add “volume” to my balding head — never going to happen.
Yet despite all our vanity prayers and products, Christian scripture suggests that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” Jesus’ observation implies a question: Why do we worry about fleeting things? What is it that makes us invest our time or our talents into things that don’t last?
If our future concerns become more about our outward appearance, then we’ll not have the time to honestly search for the internal kinds of realities.
Meaning, at the end of the day, life has to become 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 that the hair I lost last night was really the hair that’s been growing for the past 2 to 6 years. If there’s no hair growing underneath to replace it, then one is destined for baldness.
Dang! If that’s true, then I may already be bald. I just know that’s going to keep me awake tonight.