Beautifully decorated tables waited for guests. Men in black pants and white dress shirts filled water glasses. Hostesses rushed about completing duties before the Ladies’ Tea began. Women milled about in lovely spring dresses. Women from all walks of life. All stages of life. Women everywhere. More than a hundred wonderful women prepared to worship in song, listen to a message of hope, and converse with others over a cup of tea.
My heart skipped a beat. Thudded.
There’s always been a secret voice in my head when I walk into a room filled with women. Will I fit in? Did I wear the right clothes? What will they think of me?
This time, though, it was different. When I walked into that room filled with women, I didn’t just see faces. I didn’t just pay attention to what they wore. Their voices did not register.
I saw their hair. Every single person in the room. Natural colors of gray, brown, blonde and red. Streaks of blue or purple. Highlights and lowlights. Long, short, feathered, styled, chaotic, gorgeous hair. No hats. No scarves. No shaved heads. Except for me.
Because, my lovely, long hair had succumbed to the razor soon after chemo started.
Several months had passed, and the rest of my hair fell out. In many ways, it was my new norm. But the tumultuous feelings remained. With every pass of the clippers, a part of me fell away. I’d spent a lifetime figuring out who I was: a child of God, writer, creative, teacher, wife, mother. But the one label I couldn’t fathom, the one thing I couldn’t wrap my mind around, was “cancer patient.” I no longer looked like me. Let alone felt like me. My world had imploded. Seemingly, everything of value—everything that made me, me—was contingent on what the world could see.
With the loss of my hair, I lost my identity.
Too many times, I’ve let the world tell me I wasn’t good enough. Like, the fellow kindergartner on the playground who called me fat. Or, my ballet teacher who compared me to an elephant. Even those whispers behind my back from the girls in the “in” crowd. Then, when the outside voices stopped, my inner critic took up the gauntlet.
I felt unworthy because I didn’t have expensive clothes. I felt I did not deserve respect because I never rose to the top of my field. With my cancer diagnosis, I fell deeper into this way of thinking. It felt as though my very existence held no value because I could not work or complete basic household tasks, Some days, I couldn’t even walk unaided.
In that big room with beautifully decorated tables, I finally learned to strain my sight . . . until I saw faces, and not just hair. I saw friends, acquaintances, and Bible study partners. I saw women who brought meals to me when I was sick . . . women who had fought battles of their own — battles of loss, illness, disappointment, discrimination and hopelessness. I saw wonderful hearts who wanted to love and serve the Lord. Not a single face, not a single head of hair, told their full story.
Suddenly, as I saw these women, I wondered: Where were women with short hair. Was that by choice? Or were they further along on their cancer journey? Were any of them wearing wigs? But, the truth is, I couldn’t tell. I realized I could not hope to know their story, simply by looking at them. And neither could they could not know mine. My hair loss represented all those times I tried to fit in—to make myself valuable—and failed. The image I wanted to create for myself did not hold up against the heart-whole identity God wanted for me. It wasn’t about the hairs on my head—or lack thereof—it was about what was in my heart.
What was in my heart? Disillusionment. Anger. Fear. Comparison. But also empathy, love, and courage. A desire to help others. A longing to grow closer to Him. Sanctification through Jesus’ love for me. I’m so much more than what the world sees. I am—you are—we are the beloved chosen of God. His creation. He knows our hearts.
Our identities are not contingent on how the world sees us. Not in our efforts. Not in our failings or successes. Not how we dress, style our hair, or even the things we accomplish during the day. We need not be anything more than who God created us to be.
He sculpts our identity as a reflection of His. A woman of joy and pain. A woman with fears and courage. A woman of God.
When I think of that season of baldness . . . when I remember that what I see is not the entire story … I find comfort in knowing I’m not the sole creator of my identity. Instead, I rely on someone infinitely more wise than I could ever hope to be.
I am His masterpiece — we are His masterpieces.
Uniquely created in His image . . . for His purpose!Leave a Comment