I colored my hair for many years…like 25 years. In the beginning it was because I could. You know, one month I was Cherry Cola and the next month it was Dark Chocolate. In the summer, I added highlights to give my hair a softer, sun kissed appearance.
Between color appointments, I noticed gray peaking through and I didn’t like what I saw. The contrast between the color I applied and my natural color made me feel drab, unattractive and a bit depressed. So I worked harder to cover it up. I colored more often, purchased a dark brown powder to hide my gray roots and diligently styled my hair to reduce any evidence of my graying hair. Now something I started for interest – coloring my hair – felt like a necessity.
In the fall of 2017, I observed my sister’s naturally graying hair and I decided I was ready to see my natural hair. The process took about four months, but by January all the color was removed and what remained was – well, let me just tell you – it is beautiful. Brightest white and silvery gray! All this glory hiding behind a million shades of brown.
Now this blog isn’t really about the benefits or pitfalls of coloring your hair. If that is you – color on! This is about what was happening to me on the inside and the hair color is just an illustration.
You see at the same time I was also on a journey to discover who I authentically am. Trying harder exhausted me. Trying harder to appear to be who I thought I ought to be and trying even harder to cover up who I was afraid I really was required my full time attention.
In life, I developed strategies to project an image of who I thought I ought to be. Devoted, serious-minded, diligent, well studied with just the right amount of humor and light-heartedness to avoid being boring. I believed I was made for important tasks so I avoided anything that seemed menial or beneath me. I served but as a means to an end. And that end was promotion.
Over time, it became more and more difficult to maintain that image. So I had to find more strategies to keep up the image and not allow my real self to shine through because the glimpses I saw seemed drab and dull in comparison to what I imagined in my head.
Eventually, it became too much. Impression management is hard work. Just like my hair grew out more quickly each month showing increasing amounts of gray, my true self squirmed and kicked to be noticed and allowed to shine. And it exhausted me to continue managing what I believed others thought about me or expected from me.
So, I stopped. Not overnight and not even in a year, but over time, I stopped.
I remember the day I said, “This is enough! I can’t do this anymore!” And I began the arduous process of identifying my false self and allowing my true self to shine. It began with some intense prayer counseling with a dear friend. She helped me see the little girl in me who wanted to be seen and loved. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I helped her (the little girl) come out of hiding.
I also remember the day my counselor asked me how I felt about myself. It took me only seconds to reply, “I despise myself.” And then the journey began in earnest. Until that point, the work we had done was the preparatory hike to the base of the mountain. Now I was standing at the bottom of Mt Everest, and by God’s grace, I was going to climb that thing and kick everything out of the way that wanted to keep me down and depressed.
Do not even think it was an easy process or that in a week or so I was a new person. No! It has taken years to dismantle the many lies and strategies I developed to keep the true me hidden. My constant companion on this journey has been my friend, Jesus. He has met me in every hard place and given me the courage to continue the journey. Many times he asked me to give him the heavy things I was carrying or to leave burdens on the side of the trail. It is only by His grace and presence that I am who I am today.
The process of allowing my hair to return to its natural color is a physical picture of my journey to authentic living. Slowly, over time, my hair grew as my stylist worked to remove the artificial color out of my hair. Eventually, it was all gone and my natural beauty shone through.
The same has been true in the journey to finding my true self. Over time, all the strategies and mechanisms I employed in impression management have fallen away. I embrace who I am and experience joy and contentment that before were illusive at best. I am less concerned with what others think about me and more regularly “think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3:2) I am “keeping my eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
I tell you this today, not because it is easy to say, but because it is a journey we are all invited to take. Everyone of us is created by a Master Craftsman who loves us more than we can comprehend and has a plan for our lives that we can’t begin to imagine. The fact that, right now, we are derailed and wandering in a wasteland of unknown proportions is not an obstacle to him. It is where his finest work takes place.
Isaiah 43 is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It is here that the Lord declares his love and care for Israel, he rehearses the wonderful things he is going to do in their lives.
But forget all that –it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland…yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.Isaiah 43:18-20
In this process of newness I often felt shame. Shame is about who we are. It is about our being, but the Lord declares…
Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth!Isaiah 54:4
We are his chosen people and he cares deeply when we struggle in dry, barren wastelands. His declaration for refreshment is as real today as it was thousands of years ago when Isaiah wrote these words to Israel.
I invite you to join with me in the process of finding your true self under the layers of strategies and protection meant to hide what you believe to be drab and dull. I promise you, that person under there is bright, beautiful, shiny and full of glory!
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26