“Why do you smell like dinner?” Tim asked me one night after I turned off the light and climbed into bed.
“Hey, that’s not nice!” I said, laughing. “I’ve been having a problem with my hair and I’m trying to fix it.”
“Mmm,” he replied noncommittally, sniffing a bit. Then, after a pause: “Fish and chips sound really good right now.”
“Stop it!” I giggled, slugging him. “Thanks a lot.”
It was true, though. Although I didn’t smell like malt vinegar, the apple cider vinegar in my hair was a little overpowering. But after struggling with Hot Mess Hair for the better part of a month, I was desperate to get rid of its greasy feel and hoped my latest concoction would work.
It all started while on vacation at Madeline Island. The water was so hard that, by the end of the week, my hair no longer felt clean. Instead, it felt sticky. Gummy. Gross! Embarrassed, I returned home and tried everything I could think of — I asked friends for advice, relentlessly searched Google for remedies, and called my salon for tips. But instead of helping, everything I tried failed. In desperation, I tried Dawn soap (that made my now-dry scalp itch so much I was paranoid that my kindergartner had brought home lice) and, now, braved the baby-puke smell of apple cider vinegar for a bedtime soak.
But in the morning, nada. I had failed again, and my hair was still sticky.
A few days later, our heating and air-conditioning company called for our fall furnace tune-up. Walking downstairs, I prepped the room by lugging out a few of the items stacked haphazardly in the room so that the technician could at least get into the room. On a whim, I decided to check our water softener to see what level it was at.
It was completely empty. As in — NO salt inside! No wonder my hair was a Hot Mess. Fuming at my own foolishness, I called Tim to ask him to pick up salt on his way home from work. Problem solved.
It was only later on, while shampooing my now-clean hair (hallelujah!) that I was struck by the significance of my Hot Mess Hair problems. And I wondered: How often have I tried to gloss over or pretty-up the ugliness that’s inside me, rather than dealing with the root problem? My friend Nancy told me that the first lie people tell on a Sunday morning is, “I’m fine.” And isn’t it the truth? Feeling jealousy over someone else’s post-baby body. Wishing I had someone else’s poise. Frustrated with my own insecurities. Scared that if people knew the ugliness I sometimes harbor inside, they wouldn’t like me. All too often, it’s easy to paint on a smile and my eyeliner, pulling on false confidence like it’s a second skin.
But here’s the truth: No matter how many quick-fixes or home remedies I try, eventually all of my self-help remedies will amount to nothing. I can’t fix myself. I don’t have the right ingredients, and trying to do it myself is pure foolishness.
Why strive for what I already have been freely given? Why try to work out a salvation that’s already been bought and paid for? And why try to fix myself in my own power, even knowing that God would take the burden of my own insecurities and give me nothing but freedom in return?
I love this passage in Galatians:
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Galatians 1:25-26 (MSG)
Did you catch that? No need to compare ourselves to another, we have more interesting things to do. And each of us is an original. Full stop. So if you find yourself with Hot Mess Hair, look for the source or rather, to the Source. That’s where your real answer lies.