I’ve sat in her stylist chair every couple of months for nearly twenty years. That’s two decades worth of haircuts and countless hours of conversation. This lady has seen me from brunette to blonde and now to mahogany. She has seen me through middle school, high school, college, and into my adulthood.
And this lady knows me. I forget that sometimes, until I sit in her chair again, but she knows me.
When I came home from Michigan five years ago and I broke up with the not-nice minister boy and I went kind of wonky, she was the one who told me that Christ had my heart and I would find my way back to faith again. She was the one who believed for me when I didn’t, or couldn’t, and I will never forget that.
So, when I saw her this week and she asked me how life is at the big church, I answered with the kind of unbridled enthusiasm that accompanies being in the place you’re sure God has led you, because she knows me and there is some kind of freedom in being known.
My hair stylist friend and I talked a lot about freedom yesterday, actually. That’s probably my fault, because when she asked me about how the big church and my life since leaving the small church, I talked about how I feel like I’m walking in a new kind of freedom.
I didn’t know how I’d restricted and reined myself in while I was at the small church until I wasn’t there anymore. And while not entirely the fault of the small church, I didn’t feel safe there. Every time I got a tattoo, or read a Rob Bell book that I thought merited reading, or refused to help with Vacation Bible School, I got sideways looks and questions about the “solidness” of my faith from people who, after eighteen years, really should have known me better than to think I hadn’t brought Jesus into the tattoo parlor with me.
But, I stayed in the small church feeling unsafe for years anyway, because I loved the middle school and high school students. And for years, that love was sustaining and it was enough.
Until it wasn’t anymore.
In one of the last meetings I had before I left the small church someone with power told me that I wasn’t taking into account the influence I had on the students and that I wasn’t conducting myself appropriately, after I tweeted that I was “taking a morning off” one Sunday.
And in that moment, I recognized how little he knew me.
Because if he knew me, he would’ve known about the love I had for those students. He would’ve known about the hours I spent in prayer for them every week between Sundays. He would’ve known that I thought about what I was teaching them not just from my whiteboard, but in the way that I lived my life. He would’ve known that I never once lost sight of the influence I had with them, because it wasn’t lost on me that they were watching me be in the church and my friendships and my work, because they needed to see that who I was before them on a Sunday was the same person they might see wandering Target on a Thursday. And he would’ve known that my “off” time meant I was at drinking coffee, reading my Bible, journaling and being still with God.
And so, this person with power doesn’t know me and he probably never will, because he never bothered to put the time in.
The lady who cuts my hair knows me because she put the time in. She’s listened to me, and prayed for me, and believed in me for the better part of two decades. And when I was truly at my worst, she extended grace and faith and kindness. And by doing that, she helped me learn to walk in freedom.