I have a complicated relationship with a couple of things in my life: My hair, and stuff that many of my fellow believers commonly refer to as "blessings."
The guy who cuts my hair, we’ll just call him “Mark,” should be hair stylist to the stars in LA or New York. But, for some reason, he’s cutting hair in a salon in downtown Boise, taking any Idaho cowgirl that walks in the door and sending her out looking like a Vidal Sassoon shampoo commercial…except for me.
Well, he has been making me look fabulous for months, but a few days ago, I sat down in the chair with a sigh and, “Mark,” I said, “I’m tired of looking like a female announcer on Fox News.” I could see him raise an eyebrow at me in the mirror, but I forged on. “I mean, what you’ve done is beautiful, but I don’t have naturally straight hair, you know? My hair is wild and wavy and I like that, it fits me. Can’t we do something to work with the wave so I can wash it, scrunch it, and go? The forty-five minutes with the blow dryer and the straightening iron—I just can’t take it anymore.”
This was the point where Mark gave me a look that was beyond verbal description but definitely had connotations of, “You are an annoying middle-aged lady who doesn’t know from pretty.” And then he picked up his scissors, and went crazy. Little pieces of hair landed everywhere—on the floor, on me, on him, on my friend who’d come along and was sitting in the chair next to us. It was sort of like a scene from Edward Scissorhands.
By the time he was done, I looked like an aging British rock star—although my husband says I look like Meg Ryan, God bless him, which is why we’re still married after twenty-six years. You can be the judge.
Thing is, he did exactly what I wanted, and I love this cut. I step out of the shower, squoosh some gel and leave-in conditioner into my locks, and I go. It’s awesome! I feel like myself again.
It reminded me of my relationship to my current home. There’s a blog post floating around the web that I love, about someone’s joy in realizing that her 70s kitchen really is a blessing. Click here to read it. I’ve had a bunch of houses with 70s kitchens, so I can relate, but my current kitchen is much more fashionable.
This house is the newest house I’ve ever lived in. The story of how we ended up here is a long, “sold high and bought low,” “in the right place at the right time” kind of story. We’ve lived here for three years now, and I’m trying to feel at home, but it’s hard. (Which sounds so stupid. Talk about first-world problems.) This is not my beautiful house…is it? Shouldn’t I be living in something built in 1947, with paneling on the wall in the basement and plumbing that makes that kerchunk sound when you turn on the faucet?
This attitude that I’m slowly seeing in myself is puzzling and more than a little disconcerting. Mark, who only charges about fifteen bucks more than the gal at Great Clips charges, but who gives me a cut that’s about a bazillion times better, is a blessing, as is my kitchen. What is it about me that can’t just settle into it? I have hair that keeps growing no matter what I do, and a roof over my head. What difference does it make what they look like today? And if I have this much trouble with these things, how will I deal with heaven? I have no idea what living in the physical presence of God will be like, but I know it will be a gift I don’t feel like I deserve.
All kidding aside, I’ve been dismayed to discover an attitude in myself that reminds me of friends who grew up in less than functional families or came out of lives of addiction. One of the hardest things for them about living a “normal” life is that it feels surreal, like they’re faking it. As if the life they are living isn’t really theirs to live.
In thinking about those friends, that’s when I get my Ah-ha! moment. Because here is the secret that some of those friends have discovered: It’s all a blessing.
The good, the bad, all the normal boring in between—when you’re a Jesus follower, He uses it all. Your crazy past, your unknowable future, your surreal present—your life and everything in it are putty in His hands, to move you forward, grow you up, transform you.
Sometimes, the blessings look like a first-world suburban dream, sometimes they look like a studio apartment on the weird side of town complete with cockroaches (been there)—sometimes they look like tragedy on a Kurdish hillside. But in the end, He’s promised, He’ll make it all good—and He hasn’t lied to us yet.
There is no question about how God responds to the circumstances in our lives--He uses them to draw us closer to Him. But while we cannot do anything to thwart the will of our Creator God, one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith is that how we operate is important. Our response to our circumstances means something, to God and to the work He is doing in us. The question is, how do we respond to adversity, with anger and doubt or with faith? How do we respond to plenty, with pride and a sense of entitlement, or gratitude, open hearts and open hands?
We have these ideas of who we are or who we should be. In the end, none of that will matter, when we see him face-to-face. What matters is that He saved us from ourselves--and I don't know about you, but that's a blessing that is more than all right with me.