A bad haircut can ruin a day and a week and, depending upon how fast your hair grows, a couple of months. In our souls, we know that hair grows, but not instantaneously. So, we (mostly women) work with barrettes and ponytails and even a few hairbands and hats to survive the growing out period. We probably vow never to cut our hair again and bewail our manifold sins of bad haircuts with friends over chocolate and wine. We wait. We even cry.
Life goes on, and little by little, hair grows and we aren't so horrified by the prospect of the morning hairstyle routine. We start to work with the change of hair. Maybe we even like it.
Okay, so maybe you men out there can't really relate, but I suspect that most women can. We've all had the questionable hairstyle. Maybe we thought we'd really like the short pixie cut. Maybe we listened to the ill-given advice from the stylist or a friend. Maybe we thought we were ready for a change and be a redhead, and we really weren't.
Or maybe we were ready and we just needed time to get used to the cut.
Change, transition, upheaval - call it what you will, but they all feel like cuts. And they are. They are cuts to our comfort, our routine, our souls as we've come to know them. They are cuts that often remove what we don't need anymore, that open our selves up to something more, or loose us from some bondage. Those cuts, painful though they are, often provide the spaces for the light of God to shine through.
I've got several close friends in transition and change. A few in the search process for a new call, one dealing with the impact when a husband takes a new call and all that will and will not involve for her and the family and herself, one with a soon-to-be-former spouse, one with a potential new spouse.
Oh, I remember that space. I'm mildly fallow right now and savoring it, as I know fallow doesn't last for long, especially when one's bishop follows God's call to somewhere else. Fallow is the holy rest stop for a few moments where we can breath deeply and see where we were and how far we've come and smile. Fallow lets us look at the places where we were cut and see the scar that has healed, test the movement and ability of the wounded soul, and maybe even leap in joy. I was in the thick of the search process, among other things, this time last year. A close friend told me, "Your present is not your future," a mantra that seems to be rooted in the words of those who were enslaved by owners in the deep south and yearning for liberation. It became my prayer, my reassurance that God was working and wanting good things for me, even when the mountain I was climbing was too steep and rocky for me to see anything but the terrain around me, but I could pray.
Climb rocks, bleed, pray: My present is not my future. Stumble, slide down, pray: My present is not my future. Stand up again, breathe, pray.
In the midst of anxiety, worry, change, even devastation and loss of hope, our present is not our future.
Last night I gathered with other clergy and laity at the Celebration of New Ministry of a new friend and saw many of the new people who were not in my life last year - my current parishioners, parishioners in other churches whom I've met and worked with in the diocese, new clergy colleagues and friends. And I simply marveled for a few moments, overwhelmed by the love of where I am now. Overwhelmed, really, by my experience that God walked with me through the growing-out and cutting, and did indeed want good things for me.
The temptation is for me, or any of us who have gone through the cutting and growing, to blithely tell those currently in that place, "Oh, it will get better." That, in general, is not for me or any of us to say to anyone else. "Better" always feels like a relative word. What is better for some is not better for others. How we would fix something or someone's life is often not on God's to-do list. As I get older and acquire more scars, I find that grasping for the sunny side in dark times usually meets our need rather than the need of the person in the great deep with God. I don't even know how helpful reminding people that God is in the change, transition, cutting, and upheaval with us is for many people.
Maybe, when it all feels out of control and we are bleeding from the cuts and changes of life, we just need someone who can look through the bad haircut or messy life and smile at the good soul underneath it all. Maybe we just need a friend who can let us borrow the fabulous hat she acquired from her latest bad haircut until we feel safe enough on our own. Maybe we just need to hold each other's hands in silent solidarity until the hurting soul finally takes a deep breath and says, "You know, I feel better."