By Norris Burkes July 2, 2023
In a clothing store last month, I paused to try on a new hat, prompting my wife to ask if I was trying to cover my senior hair loss.
“I’m not losing my hair. It’s receding.”
Becky knew I was cuing her to deliver on an old Jeff Foxworthy joke. And she did not disappoint.
“I think your hair is receding into your brain and out your nose and ears,” she said.
The truth is, I’ve been concerned about hair loss ever since I was ten years old and my mother warned me that genetics predestined me to resemble her balding father.
In college, a close friend teased me saying that my hairy arms looked like a “spider convention.” I reacted by shaving my peach-fuzzed arms. Perhaps this is way too much information for your morning cereal but stay with me.
In seminary, I formulated a prayer that I called my “hair prayer.”
“God, please let me keep my hair until I’m at least 40 years old.”
For the most part, my expectations have been met with a handful of silver hair remaining into my sixties.
I know, I know. I should be praying for world peace or for the end of poverty and prejudice. 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 entitled beliefs that we should pamper ourselves rather than help others.
After all, we have our vanity surgeries, we buy vanity license plates and sometimes, even columnists will (gasp) use a vanity press to publish their books. (Only $12.95 at my website.)
In our hearts, we know these vanity products have little value. Still, we cling to them. We employ magical thinking by asserting they add value to our lives. This belief is not unlike how I tell myself that a certain hair product will add “volume” to my balding head — never going to happen.
Yet despite all our self-concern, Jesus suggested in Matthew 10:30 that “God cares what happens to you even more than you do.”
Could God possibly care more about me than ‘me’ cares about me?
Jesus was convinced. He adds a descriptor, claiming God has, “even numbered the hairs on your head!”
There is a question implied in his hyperbole: “Why do we worry about fleeting things? What is it that makes us invest our time or our talents in things that don’t last?”
Bending our concerns and prayers toward our outward appearance will always rob us of the self-reflective moments we need to honestly examine our internal realities.
I think British-Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro expressed these thoughts well when he wrote “The Remains of the Day.” In his 1989 novel, Ishiguro depicts a butler named Stevens who regrets how he’d lived a subservient life.
Things begin to change for Stevens when he turns his focus away from the past and considers what he will do with the remains of his days.
The whole point of the book, and I think the crux of Jesus’ teaching, was that life has to include a daily spiritual examination and a search for eternal things and lasting realities.
So tonight, instead of looking for the remains of your hair on your pillow, examine the remains of your days.
And by the way, I read somewhere that hair grows for 2 to 6 years before it falls out. If there’s no hair growing underneath to replace the loss, then one is destined for baldness.
Dang! If that’s true, I’m probably already bald.
I’ll need to buy some more hats.
Send comments to [email protected] or snail mail 10566 Combie Road, Suite 6643, Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail 843-608-9715. Visit his website at www.thechaplain.net where you can read past columns or purchase his books.