Shaving away my vanity

This was going to be a video, but alas I feel viral plague coming and I have to have a voice to preach tomorrow. So…

Shave day is tomorrow, so it’s time for my last childhood cancer fact and bald benefit.

Fact: Late effects, or physical and emotional problems related to cancers and their treatment, can develop years after treatment is complete. They can be even more devastating for children and teenagers than for adults because of changes in the body.

I appreciate everybody who has tuned in to my Facebook for updates on fundraising and other information. My last bald benefit is the culmination of all the benefits that came before it, and goes back to my initial decision to become a St. Baldrick’s Shavee. The one benefit I am most thankful for is the chance to strip away one facet of the vanity that holds me apart from God.

Sharing my other Bald Benefits over the last few weeks has given me the chance to explore the nature of that vanity. However tongue in cheek some were, each one was ultimately about increasing my own convenience or getting to have fun with my outer appearance.

It’s just hair. It will grow back. How privileged I am to be secure in that knowledge.

I heard a few comments along the way that helped me examine my privilege:

Interesting/wrong time of the year to shave your head! I don’t remember how I responded to this, but it’s true. From the standpoint of someone who gets to choose baldness, for whatever cause or reason, the tail end of autumn is a strange time to pick. I’m a freeze baby, so why would I willingly sacrifice my hair?

But two things are also true: one, I am lucky to have the choice. Cancer doesn’t wait for soft spring or halcyon summer to wreak havoc on children’s bodies, and treatment is often a race against time. Waiting for better weather to start chemo could be the difference between life and death.

The other thing is this, friends: I am afraid to wait any longer. In fact, that’s why I moved the date up by a week. I was – and am – afraid that by waiting for an event in the spring I would be tempted to find even more excuses not to go through with it. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last two years, since my beloved former neighbor came home a Shavee. Even choosing an original date 8 weeks out was less about having enough time to raise money and more about making sure I still had hair for family pictures.

Even today I’m afraid that I’ll chicken out when the buzzer nears my head tomorrow.

And that makes me think of the other, far more common comment I’ve received:

What you’re doing is so brave.

It saddens me when people call me brave for shaving my head. It shames me that sometimes I actually feel brave for doing it.

And believe me, I understand why it seems like a brave thing to do. Society and corporate culture both allow room for unorthodox style choices but are still both subscribers to gendered norms. Choosing to wear a short hairstyle is one thing; baldness would very likely be an unwelcome distraction.

But here’s the thing. I get to avoid most of that – I’m a stay at home mom! Even though I’m preaching now and moving deeper into ministry, my church family will affirm my reason for baldness if they even feel the need to ask about it.

I’m not all that brave.

Brave is the patient going through the treatment that will cost them their hair but may save their life – or may not. But they take the risk.

Brave is the parent who has to choose whether to put their child through painful treatment to extend their years, or to give their child the happiest and most comfortable life possible despite an abbreviated timetable.

Brave is hoping, praying, believing that your child will continue to be cancer-free at every annual check, and facing down the paralyzing fear that even in remission, your precious child isn’t really safe.

The truth is, I use my hair to make a statement about who I am. I spend 45 minutes making sure it is perfectly straight and parted so I look polished and confident whether I feel that way or not. I wear my natural curls and humblebrag that “it just does this” right out of the shower. I throw it up in a ponytail that tells everyone I have way more important things to worry about than having perfect hair – but the pony itself has to be flawless.

I dye my hair with the seasons, to be edgy or just to hide the gray that’s finally catching up to me. And just to be clear, when my hair grows back I will go right back to dyeing it. And when I’m between dyes, I will take tweezers to the stray strands that have decided to show up white.

I spend so much time and energy worrying about my hair at the expense of worrying about far greater things. My hair, straight or curly or messy or pulled back, doesn’t reveal the truth of my brokenness or the fullness of my salvation in Christ.

My hair doesn’t display or even acknowledge the servant’s heart I strive to have. It doesn’t give people a welcome sign that I am a safe place. It doesn’t let me show them the love of Jesus…no matter how good it looks up on the worship stage or chancel.

But my baldness…my baldness could do all of those things.

A bald woman is a curiosity. Baldness invites stares and starts conversations. If I’m more concerned with loving on people and less on how my hair will look while doing it, resurrection may happen.

So tomorrow I will strip away this layer, in hopes that when it grows back I will remember to leave my heart bald and open.

We’re $70 from the finish line but there’s still time to donate!

Visit https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/806987/2015 and help fund critical childhood cancer research.