Chemical Reactions in Hair and on Hearts

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I got a day in the city yesterday.  It was awesome.  The kind of day I just crave sometimes when my urban heart gets bored with the beige’s of suburbia and I need a dose of weird and busy and better coffee.

I also use these days to get my hair done.  I’m absolutely unwilling to admit that there are sixteen thousand places to get my hair done in my own town.  I feel the need to drive over an hour.  To pay a bridge toll. To fill a meter with  ridiculous amounts of change for a parking spot.  All for something that I’m pretty sure could be accomplished within 10 minutes of my home.

But, no.  I head to the city.  Because the city has Andrew and his Scottish accent and the medallion of  St. Peter that he always wears around his neck.

Yesterday I got to go and see Andrew and once we had decided that I wanted the exact same thing that he did to my hair last summer (and the summer before that), we were off!  Some beachy blonde ends.  Nothing crazy.  Same same same as always.

Did I mention, the same as always?

We were just getting started on talking about all of the things we ever talk about.  He was filling me in on the trends happening in the UK and how his mom is doing as he painted my hair and wrapped it up in foil.

I felt something warm on my back and was going to mention that something must have dripped when suddenly it felt like Andrew had taken his flat iron and was pressing it into my shoulder blade.  It was like a hairstylist horror movie where they use their curling irons and wands to brand their clients until they surrender.

Except that it wasn’t.  And he didn’t.

I was just about to blurt out that my back was burning when he proclaimed something along the lines of, “Oh $%&!  Get to the sink!”

So I did.  Cape flapping in the wind behind me.

He washed and shampooed and washed some more and the look on his face (oh the look on his face!) was panic and fear and what the helicopter just happened!!

Turns out that the shtuff that should sit on my hair to make me look sun kissed had some sort of chemical reaction to my hair.  The stuff that should sit on my hair for about an hour had turned my hair white in 3 minutes.

Oh, and did I mention that it was bubbling?  And smelled like burning glue?


Chemical reaction.  Bubbling.  Burning.  Steam.  Damage.

Turns out, ‘they’ say  that there was some sort of build up on my hair, possibly from our water, that had a (clearly) adverse reaction with whatever he was putting on it.  A buildup that is formed over time.  Something that none of us could see or feel but was there.  On me.  Composing the make up of my hair.  And when something was added to it – BOOM!

It made me wonder what else I have on me that I don’t know about.  Like what kind of things I’ve been raised to believe, what kind of things I think are normal simply because of where I live, what kind of barriers and walls I have built against people or situations I’m not happy with.  I wonder how living in North America has put a layer of buildup on my skin.  I wonder how growing up in the bible belt has affected this build up.

There are times I run up against things that make me feel prickly.  Moments brush up against me and my back feels like it’s, warm at first, but then burning.  People I meet make me uncomfortable, words they say make me cringe or judge or just sadly shake my head in pity.

When things or moments or time or situation or happenstance or different comes in contact with the layer that I’m covered with, just like my hair, a chemical reaction can take place.  We can get all bubbly and pokey and burney and hot.  We can smell the disaster.  We rush to the sink to get it off.  Get it out.  To sanitize and come to terms with the fact that I’m not doing THAT again!

I can’t see the layers of residue on my hair that make it what it is and I can’t see the film that is over my entire being, my body, heart, mind.

I know that God is forming me into who He wants me to be.  I know that He has placed me here, in this time, in this location, with this family and friends and particular skill set. All of it.  With the joys and traumas of childhood.  With the laughter and tears of marriage.  With the easy breezy days and the ones that feel like your soul is being crushed.

So I don’t wish things were different.  That would be like deciding I know better.  I’ve proven time and time again that I don’t know what’s better.

What I do wish is that I would be sensitive to the burn.  Aware of when there’s something that prickles my skin the wrong way.  That I would smell the chemical reaction and not run away to sanitize the situation.  Instead that I would understand that there are layers on me that I can’t see and there are layers on you that you can’t see and sometimes we’re more like oil and water than a perfect fusion.

What I want to do is not feel the need to cleanse that.  I want to know that we don’t require antiseptic to make it all better.  We don’t need to scrub each other with disinfectant for fear that we may contaminate.

Instead I want to see you for who you are, not the way you make me feel.  I want to listen to you without it making me boil or burn.  I want your thoughts and ideals and layers to be heard because of who you are, not in light of who I am.  I want to be sensitive to situations not because of the remnants left on me and my life but because they are the remnants left on you and yours.  I want to embark into the territories that might feel a bit brambly and bristly.  The ones that might rub some of my wounds or confront my ideals.  I want to show up when I know this might be just plain, old hard.

I want the residue that covers all of me to be Jesus.  I want him to be the spectacles through which I view all.  I want him to be the intellect through which all I think is filtered.  I want him to be the heart through which I love.  I want Him to strip away all that I think is me, the things that define me, that have formed me, the powers that have played into who I have become.  I want to wash all of that away so that I can be, despite me and my circumstances and my hurts and my weaknesses, the one who doesn’t cause the final explosion.

Maybe then the thistles wouldn’t poke so hard and the differences wouldn’t have to scorch.  Maybe then, instead of the chemical reaction, the bubbling, the burn, the steam and the damage we could fuse just a little bit more.  Maybe we could merge and blend and coalesce.  Listen and hear and speak and not worry about offence and defence but worry about each other.  Right where we’re at.

If the residue of me was stripped away and the new overlay was Jesus I know the chemical reaction wouldn’t have to explode.

Instead, only love would.


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