“ But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. “
– Isaiah 40:31-
If you’ve been around church much, you’ve heard this verse before. You may have heard it so much that it’s lost it’s impact. I recently watched the new Wonder Woman movie as I hadn’t gone to see it in theaters. This verse kinda makes me feel like I can be like Wonder Woman…..mounting up to the sky….running and not getting tired….ever renewing strength. Yes, please! One problem though….Wonder Woman is definitely not bald.
There’s this thing about baldness. I know I’ve talked about losing my hair before, but this is different. There are the emotions you go through as you are transitioning from a full head of hair to a complete lack thereof, including the physical realization that your body is just not right. But when you’ve been without hair for nearly two years, you notice the world around you, and primarily the people around you, a little differently. Is it because you feel different? Or do they treat you different….or both?
We’re funny…. When something is out of place or odd to us, we either give it too much attention or purposefully not enough, thereby either way…pointing it out all the more. I have often laughed, observing teenagers and young adults not knowing quite how to respond to me. They try their best not to look like they are staring, but they just can’t peel their eyes away. Adults tend to divert their eyes as quickly as possible, more adept at ignoring uncomfortable situations, likely in a well-meaning effort to not make me feel bad. Of course I don’t fault anyone for any of this. It’s totally understandable. Children….they’re the best…they don’t even notice. And if they do notice….they sure don’t care. Sweet Ellie often asks if she can get her hair cut like mommy, and I, of course, won’t oblige.
One thing that’s surprised me is the observable physical and emotional change that occurs in people when they can see your weakness blatantly displayed. Baldness, especially female baldness, when obviously not occurring by choice or age, is one of the clearest cues of weakness. People either become unexpectedly comfortable – instantly ready to reveal the deep wells of their life to you – or instead they want to avoid it altogether because they are trying so hard to act like they have no weaknesses, and coming face to face with yours affronts them with the danger of having their own exposed.
My baldness has kicked a door wide open: An opportunity to see things as you would have never seen them before and for people to see you as an open door. A door to opportunity. A door to understanding. A door to sympathy and hope. I have been stopped on a trail while walking with my children by another mother who simply was curious about my situation. I have been told by a caring elderly man “you look way too young to be here”. A Trader Joe’s employee once disclosed to me her struggles with a psychological illness where she couldn’t avoid pulling her hair out. Multiple times, I have received the opportunity to pray for people who quickly revealed to me their own, or their family’s, past or current struggle with cancer. We all have weakness. Everyone knows it. Some just live their lives to hide it and others are looking for the first opportunity to reveal it to someone so they don’t have to bear the burden on their own anymore.
I’ve found that there is a relationship between baldness and boldness. In the Isaiah 40 verse above, the imagery of an eagle is beautiful (humor me and pretend that it’s a “bald” eagle): To go from waiting on the Lord, to mounting up like an eagle. An eagle is referenced because it depicts the strength that comes from the Lord. The eye of an eagle, although similar in size to a human’s, has a sharpness that is nearly 4 times that of a person with perfect vision. What difference does that make? Well…there is a sharpness of vision – an increasing in senses and sensitivity that occurs when we admit we are weak.
That’s why I’m thankful my weakness is so exposed. There’s no question as to whether I’m going through something difficult. It’s out there like a cue ball for all to see. This allows me ample opportunity to share what God is doing on the inside. So while my outward appearance screams weakness, my inward spirit is growing stronger and more bold. With a boldness to boast that His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9). The challenge then becomes: that when my weakness is hidden again, to remain bold and vulnerable. Finding ways to expose my weakness so I can declare my confidence in Him!
(Wearing their shirts from Robby’s recent medical mission trip in Beirut, Lebanon)
“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Cor. 4:16-18
“But the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” -Ann Voskamp