roamin' catholic: karin rosner


Posted on: September 4, 2010

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4, NIV)

Ouch! I swirled around in my chair during glee club rehearsal to face the girl who not only pulled my hair, but tugged at least one of them out with a violent yank. Wendy was wearing a huge triumphant grin.

“I was doing you a favor!” The single long hair dangled between her fingertips, gleaming silver in the low light of the school chapel. Silver.

The priest who taught us kicked us both out of practice and sent us home.

I spent the rest of that Thursday afternoon in the bathroom hunting for more gray hairs. Any joy that I had felt about pre-teen boys and boobs vanished with the knowledge that I was going gray. I was twelve years old. There were gray hairs on my scalp, and they were growing, like a skunk’s white stripe, on the back of my head where I couldn’t yank them out myself before they made a public appearance. My body was broken! I discovered that I was getting old even before I had the chance to be young.

As soon as I started junior high, I began experimenting with hair color. Brush-in kits to streak in red highlights were my gateway drug. High school brought it’s own experimentation with rinses, and somewhere I discovered temporary hair colors in New Wave excitement: pink, blue and purple streaks had nothing to do with the gray hair. By college, I was hitting the permanent colors and going dark, darker, darkest, goth. Goth-black was too much, I turned to red, and eventually made a switch to crunchy, hippy henna.

I turned 40 this past spring, and I’m tired of cleaning up the mess that henna makes. Plus it’s getting harder for me to turn gray into sparkly red highlights using henna. Those streaks are staying gray. I could go to a professional or just go back to commercial hair color, but I’ve been doing my own lying for so long, and have become so good at it, that the thought of getting expert help in deception from professional liars just doesn’t make sense. And, professional colorists are expensive. So, the gray has been growing out all summer. There’s more of it than I thought. My brown hair is mousy-dull. I still have some henna in the house and a long weekend is stretching in front of me, promising me at least eight hours of uninterrupted time to sit around wrapped in a towel with a potful of greenish brown poop plastered to my head. After a rinse, the henna will work or it won’t. The lie will “take”, or my gray strands will proclaim their ancient funereal truth. Anyone who understands how this little plant dye works knows its dirty little secret: the lighter sparkly bits shining bright ginger-gold in the sunlight are actually gray and white hairs struggling to live another day. Those ain’t highlights, honey.

Before I was even born, God knew when those first gray hairs would appear on my head. If He knows the secrets of my body, then He knows the secrets of my heart. He knows why I’m clinging to youth, and knows my pain about wrinkles, gray streaks, cellulite and bi-focals. His promise made to us a very long time ago, a promise made in Jesus’ death and resurrection assured us that one day, there will be no more growing old, being sick, dragging weary. John, another prophet writing centuries after Isaiah, reminds us at the very end of the New Testament another of God’s promises echoed throughout Israel’s story of siege: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21: 4). John goes on in the next verse to write, “He makes all things new!”

I can hide my gray hair from the world, but I can’t hide my life, my mortality and my sin from Him who knows everything about me before I even come to Him in prayer.  God loves me, ginger or gray, smooth or wrinkled. Through God’s son, I am rescued from the consequences of the lie humanity bought into even when the silver turns to white.(Genesis 3:4) Through His Spirit, I am set free to live fully, and to accept getting older… with God’s help. (And I need all the help that I can get.) The promise that God makes to Israel through Isaiah’s words is just as true for us as it was for the suffering Israelites: the God who made us knows us, knows our pain, and carries us through suffering into joy. The touch of gray is nothing; God’s sustaining love should mean everything.

Oh well, a touch of grey
Kind of suits you anyway
That was all I had to say
And it’s all right
“Touch of Grey” Grateful Dead


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