Monday, August 2, 2021

Love Through the Lens of Hair

I spend a lot of time thinking about hair. As women, we often hear that a woman's hair is her crowning glory, a phrase with Biblical roots found in 1 Corinthians 11:15 and Proverbs 16:31. Often how a woman feels about her hair will determine how she feels about herself. 

Black women have often been made to feel that their hair is ugly or bad because it doesn't fit the cultural aesthetic of beauty. Along with beauty, there's the issue of manageability; straight hair just seems to require less effort. This is what my mother thought as she tried to manage our hair. 

I am one of three girls, and I remember my mom having the time of her life trying to do our hair. This was a challenge, but she was going to figure it out. My mom initially taught me how to braid or cornrow by demonstrating on her own head. That skill has stayed with me and has saved me. 

In many time-saving efforts and what is the tradition in our culture, we went through weekends where she would press our hair to make it straight. But this was a temporary measure, the thought being that straight hair on three heads would be easier to manage. What usually took all day could be undone by rain or sweat! Then my mom graduated to chemical relaxers with minimal success. My mom tried all sorts of chemicals on our hair to make it easier to style, but all we ended up with was damaged hair. 

However, those braiding skills that she initially showed me saved my hair and my self-esteem. Once I was old enough to do my own hair, I would braid my hair in intricate styles during the summer and leave it alone. While I wore my hair braided, I told myself I was beautiful and carried myself that way. My hair eventually became healthy again. I pressed my hair for a while, then, as an adult, figured out that it was best to have a hairdresser relax my hair and finally went natural. Hair was always a big deal. 

I'm now the mom of three girls (the irony). We have our stories to tell dealing with different hair textures, but today they are all natural, and one has always been that way. They all love the natural beauty of their hair.

Hair is always on my mind, so often when I read the story of the lady who anointed Jesus' feet with her hair (Luke 7:36-50), I think of hair like mine - textured, kinky and coiled. However, what is usually portrayed is a lady with long flowing hair flowing in the direction of Jesus' feet. And I always have a disconnect.

We all read the Bible through our familiar lenses, and then as we read, our perspectives are changed. I don't know the texture of this lady's hair, but I imagine it could have been like mine. And what that would mean is that she was even more intentional in bowing to Jesus. Because hair like mine would not flow, it had to be positioned. She would have to kneel and place her head on his feet. It would be an act of the heart extending to her hair. 

This imagery makes sense to me because Jesus uses her act of love to tell a parable of much love and much forgiveness (Luke 7:39-43). In Luke's version of this story, this woman is noted as a sinner. We're all sinners, but to be named as a sinner implied something negative about her lifestyle. Jesus, recognizing her need, forgave her. She, recognizing that she was in the presence of the One who forgives totally, humbled herself. It was all worth it - the bowing, the anointing, the positioning of her hair on His feet for Jesus said, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace (Luke 7:50)."

I just wanted you to imagine this story of much love and forgiveness through the lens of textured hair without missing the bigger picture of her heart and Jesus' love. I think that's the beautiful thing about reading the Bible; hopefully, we can all see ourselves in it and then be open to what God can do in our lives.

And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to wash his feet with her tears. She wiped his feet with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the perfume. Luke 7:37,38

Dear Lord, may we all see ourselves as sinners saved by grace because of your great love for us. May your love humble us in an unnatural way so that we are willing to give everything for you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

How do you see yourself in the Bible?


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  1. I enjoyed reading this so much! When I was 23, I spent a summer in Liberia, West Africa, living with a missionary who sent me out to work with church-related girls' groups. One afternoon after our scheduled program hour, I stayed a little longer, just to get to know the little girls better. They asked if they could braid my hair, and I let them. I sat on the porch step, and the little beauticians stood on all sides. Four giggly little girls took their own section of my long straight hair and started braiding. When they finished, it just fell down. They were surprised and disappointed. They thought if they only could braid my hair, it would stand out like theirs did. So they learned another way that we're different, but my purpose in letting them do it was to connect with them, to be accessible and trust them with my hair, and show them how we're not different but the same in our desire to share our vulnerable selves with one another. That little girls' playtime drew us closer to one another, deepened our friendships--and most of all, made it easier to share the love of Jesus with them, through a Bible story, when I came back next time. So thanks for sharing your "hair post." Talented writing! It really resonated with me and brought back a great memory!

  2. I'm not a religious person so I can't really answer your question! But I loved reading your post and I can totally understand why you might have felt a disconnect with the woman with the long flowing hair. Personally, I love seeing women with their hair natural. There is such beauty in it (it's one of the reasons I quit dying my hair in my mid 30s), whether it's afro, curly, straight, white, grey, whatever. Beautiful post!
    Suzy x

  3. I have hair that is quite wavy but not quite curly. I’m pretty low maintenance so i love natural hair. I especially love when i see natural hair on a young black girl. My friend’s daughter had the impression that her hair wasn’t good enough because it wasn’t “white girl hair” and I just thought how incredibly sad that is. So my friend started wearing her hair natural and her daughter did as well. It’s so pretty! Every time I see that little girl now I tell her how pretty her hair looks. It’s so important that as women, regardless of what colour we are or where we come from, we build one another up. The world is full of people and places that tear us down. It’s our job to stand together. It’s our job to make sure that every single little girl out there feels beautiful and confidant about herself. It’s our job to love one another. That’s my take on the Bible.

  4. I'm not a person of color but as one with very curly hair, I've faced some similar struggles throughout my life. My mother had no idea on how to style my hair so I was mostly on my own. It took me a long time to learn to love my hair in its natural state. Thank you for sharing your journey.


  5. I never really thought about her hair like this before...but I love that the Bible is always giving and giving again so that we can see ourselves there...

  6. 'm not a religious person so I can't really answer your question! But I loved reading your post and I can totally understand why you might have felt a disconnect with the woman with the long flowing hair. Personally, I love seeing women with their hair natural


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