Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smoke Signals

People do various things to bring comfort into their lives when times are troubled. Toddlers suck their thumbs, some people turn the television on and numb their pain by watching mindless sitcoms, and then there's me: I trim my hair. Not cut it. Just trim.

"Mom!" my daughter will say in a scolding voice at finding me looking in the mirror with the scissors in my hand.

"What?" I protest. "I'm just trimming my hair."

And this scenario repeats over and over. It got to the point that Abby hid my scissors for a couple days. She and my husband had to do an intervention of sorts. No more trimming for me.

I have always dabbled in cutting hair. This started out innocently enough when I was younger and I began to trim a girlfriend's hair and help her style it so that she could look as pretty as she ought to. She was hiding behind her hair and I wanted to help her.

Then I began to cut my husband's hair, years ago, due to economical motivation. He was a pastor in a small church with a small salary. I needed to help make ends meet. So I learned how to use the electric clippers and the different attachments. I give pretty decent haircuts considering most men go into a barber and the barber just mows them down with a clipper. I can do that, I thought, and I did.

Then a year ago my teenage son wanted to grow his hair as long as he could, considering the rules of the Christian school he was at, and it was up to me to keep trimming the ends when his hair would reach his collar (a big no-no). Then after school ended, Alex wanted me to texturize his hair to take out some of the bulk. I know how to use these texturizing scissors pretty well
(a word of caution here: don't try this at home or you could end up bald in a zig zag pattern!).

And then there's me. I have always trimmed my own hair, contorting myself into weird positions so I can see in the mirror the back of my head and get everything just right. I trim my hair partially because its just plain cheaper to do so than to go to a salon every two months and plunk down a huge wad of cash.

But I also trim my hair lately because it comforts me to make something, something, even and straight and right. The last couple years I have been trimming more and more. That should tell you something about my life, or at least tell you something about how I see my life. I see it as a bit uneven, jagged , something's not right here, and then there's this part of my life that I want to get right. I'm coping and I'm comforting myself, when I trim my hair, with the idea that there's something more I could do to fix things, to arrange things better.

Now I know enough about Psychology and I've read enough self-help books to know that in this aspect of my life, this habit is not a good one, that its a reflection of my need to control or cope, and that it's not helping me any. I know this. I don't trim my hair without thinking - this is not good, Lauren.

If you've been trimming your hair, figuratively, in an attempt to get a bit of relief from living in a world which needs a lot more than a new hairstyle, then you may have been asking God for help, for comfort. And until you've heard from God, you've snipped a little here, snipped a little there. Maybe you're doing a lot more woodworking than you did before, and the log you're working on has been whittled down to a toothpick and you're still trying to get it right. Maybe you keep painting the same canvas over and over. Maybe you've been cooking and baking and cleaning to save your life, and people have been asking you- why the frenzy? Why the increase in this activity, this habit of yours?

Sometimes we just do something because its the one thing we know how to do to make sense of something. It's the one thing about which we have a bit of expertise or a bit of wherewithall and we are exerting all we know to do to affect something positively.

I'm not really bringing much comfort to my life when I trim my hair, even if in the very moment I'm trimming I have a momentary sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment, of evenness. I want a comfort that's more enduring. I want a pervading sense of peace. I don't like to feel like I'm in a precarious place of transition and trial.

I've not only been asking God to comfort me, I've been signaling it with my dysfunctional constant trimming of my hair. I see this and God sees this clearly. He's ready to do an intervention of sorts. Because God not only hears our prayers and petitions and requests for help. He sees them as well.

"I love the Lord, because he listens to my prayers for help"
Psalm 116:1


Anonymous said...

Another good one (found just this morning--and resonating in my own life):

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. I Corinthians 16:13-14

Angie said...

My husband cuts his own hair and sons. I do the necklines and over the ears. I can't stand the mess it makes, which leads to my smoke I've learned that it's a means of trying to take control. If I look carefully, I can see it in lots of areas of my life. God's working on me...

p.s. Don't mean to feed your issue, but I've always loved your hair. You do a good job.

Lauren said...

My smoke signal is even more horrible...picking. Any place on my skin that is not completely smooth, i pick at it. Many times, I turn absolutely nothing into a freakishly ugly thing. I've praying about this since my early twenties, but still struggle.


Hannah Grace said...

I struggle w/ this same thing. I start dieting even though I dont really need to whenever I feel out of control, thats my smoke signal. However I have found that when I am stressed out and maybe not trusting God like I should the Psalms are a huge help to me!

LAUREN at Faith Fuel said...

Ah, yes, we all do something, at certain times, to try to get a grip on what's happening.

And Angie, thanks for the compliment. Don't worry- its not going to feed my obsession. My hair can only look pretty if I still have it! So I can't- I absolutely can't-keep trimming or there won't be anything left to compliment! :)