“So – I’ve been thinking about a theology of hair curlers recently – how are you?”
It had been a while since I last had a friend round, and I had a whole lot of pent-up extrovert energy. I babbled like my young son: a mixture of dying to tell someone what I’d been thinking and trying-to-remember-the-proper-manners. We hovered in the kitchen, in that ‘waiting for the kettle to boil’ no-man’s-land of social convention.
“Oh!” Cat replied. “Right…”
I took that as an invitation to continue, and spurted it all out.
Something peculiar has been happening to me recently. People who have known me for a long time can testify that I am not really a ‘girly-girl.’
This is my confession: I have never spent longer than 10 minutes doing make-up. I don’t style my hair, I just wash it and let it dry in its own sweet time. It curls underneath and is straight at the top, which means that some days it works, and some days it really doesn’t. I choose my clothes according to how warm it is outside and whatever happens to be clean and in my drawer. I come upon fashions when everyone else has stopped wearing them. The concept of accessorising terrifies me.
But Abby Leigh surprised me by writing of fashion, and Christian bloggers Alia Joy and Joy Bennett wrote how putting care and thought into what they wore transformed their mental attitude and sense of worth. Before then, I wouldn’t have thought fashion and God would really go together.
Until, these last few months, (pre-relapse), inspired by the TV program Nashville, I have started to curl my hair – with proper curlers, and everything. I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy it, and feel good about looking good – and so, naturally, I’ve been feeling guilty about the time and energy it takes to do it. Surely God wouldn’t want me to be spending my time with this? Doesn’t God disapprove of such fripperies?
And then I consider again: is this really how I should be spending my energy, when I have so little? Is it not hideously self-indulgent to invest time and money on primping?
Which leads me onto writing. (Stay with me on this).
I think of my blogging, my writing, as a luxurious self-indulgence. It was only recently, doing the one-day Story 101 course with Elora and Preston and reading Ed Cyzewski‘s short book that I considered for the first time that my writing could be a calling, a ministry, a way of worshipping God and serving Him. Despite the fact that I write about faith issues and spirituality, this was something of a revelation. (I think I unconsciously subscribe to the philosophy that if I like doing something it must be a sin or an idol in some way.)
But what if the things that we enjoy are part of our calling? After all, we have the psalms in the Bible – that’s poetry, music. God appointed craftsmen to make the tabernacle beautiful and colourful – He could have just set it up to be a 1960s-style utilitarian shack. Drama enables us to understand ourselves and the world better; art forces us to think and consider the eternal; cooking enables us to enjoy God’s gifts and give pleasure to others; Miriam danced when she prophesied; David played the harp to calm Saul’s depression.
What if God created us to play as well as work? Do you think it’s possible to have a theology of curling one’s hair?
“What do you think?” I asked her, and I found myself unexpectedly nervous.
“Um, you sound like you’re talking in blog,” she said, which was true. I hadn’t so much as paused for breath. She got a cup of coffee, settled down on the sofa, took a breath, and considered all that I said. “I guess it can be a problem if you’re spending all your time on your appearance and your identity is in that. It could become an idol.”
She was right, of course, that that was a danger, and a very real problem for many; but the idea of me being obsessed with how I looked is so far removed from my personality that I involuntarily snorted.
“Yeah – I don’t think that would be an issue for me. What if it’s not an idol? What do you think – is there a way you can justify it? Make-up and stuff? Fashion? Poetry and playing with words?”
She paused, and thought. “If it’s a way of bringing attention to God’s creation, adorning God’s creation, I think that gives glory to God.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. I had not known how much it mattered: realising that I wanted permission, somehow. I sat for a moment and hugged that thought to my chest: the possibility that as well as working and serving, God permits us to – no, enjoys seeing us – play, create.
We live in a fallen world, but our theology does not start at the Fall, it starts at creation. God is not anti-pleasure. We were built to enjoy God’s good gifts. We were made in the image of God, and part of that image is that we too are creative beings; we take enjoyment in creating beauty. God blessed us to work in the garden, to play, to procreate.
In every sphere of life there is that fault-line of creation and fall: God’s good things that have been spoilt. There is paradox, both-ands. I want to tread that line with care, with humility.
We can pause awhile while we chop onions and throw red and green peppers into the pan, and reflect on the green and red of the fruit-filled trees in that first garden. We can remember the fact that God’s Spirit is always hovering over the deep, and He continues to speak life into places of darkness, of nothingness. It can be a corner of the day where we hold in our hands that thing we have done, and reflect on the possibility of God’s joy in designing us. It can be that time when we remember the sheer pleasure of making something out of nothing, beauty from dust, colour from grey.
Creativity can become a sacred space, if we invite God into it. This is what my hair curlers are teaching me.
Advance notice: Guest post series on creativity – all July! I want to think more about creativity, and I’ve invited poets, artists, musicians, and academics to help us do so. It’s gonna be good!!
Over to you:
- How do you express your creativity?
- In what ways can your ‘play time’ become a sacred space?
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