My husband shaved his head this weekend. He had been telling me for the last few days that his hair was getting too unruly and he would need to cut it all off soon. And yet I was still unprepared for the moment when I turned to greet him as he walked into the kitchen after his shower. The baldness startled me. My heart received a sharp pang, and the lump in my throat that was holding back the tears from rising to my eyes grew. He knew instantly that I was dismayed. I attempted to smooth over my reaction by mumbling something about how I wouldn’t be able to run my fingers through his hair anymore.
But that wasn’t the real reason. I couldn’t even look at him. All day I managed to talk and interact with him while avoiding eye contact, and well, looking at his head at all. If my eyes naturally glanced at his face as he began to speak, they quickly bounced away before the image had a chance to embed itself in memories of pain, rejection and abuse.
My husband’s hair, or rather his lack of hair, triggers me. He doesn’t know that. He does know that it upsets me whenever he shaves his head. But I have never told him why. I have chosen not to because it is his hair, on his body, after all, and he has every right to keep his hair at whatever length he wants to. I would not appreciate my husband trying to impose his will over me for any of my personal body choices. I believe that he thinks I just prefer him with hair. Not much different from how I favour the blue T-shirt that matches his eyes over his other clothing options.
But it does go deeper than that. In the beginning stages of our dating and married life, my husband had hair. He kept it fairly short, but still, there was hair on his head. This was the man I was attracted to and fell in love with. Then he began closely shaving his head. I don’t believe it was a defining moment for either of us. How much hair he did or didn’t have was of little importance throughout our marriage.
Until four and a half years ago when I confronted him, and the depth of his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia was exposed. Corresponding with the timing of his decision to battle and enter a recovery program for his pornography use, his head began to be covered in soft, blond curls. I was quite curious and intrigued by this seeming connection of my husband seeking healing and recovery, and letting his hair grow out.
My husband is a big man. With his bald head, his appearance was somewhat intimidating. While in the throes of his pornography addiction and intimacy anorexia, he was an angry, disconnected, emotionally abusive man. The hardness of his heart was displayed on his face. For twenty five years.
As my husband embraced his recovery program, his entire body language shifted and relaxed. The tension was released from his body. His face softened. The blond curls framed his newly smiling eyes. The undeniable change in his physical presence was a gift that allowed me to trust that the same thing was happening in his heart. It was.
And now, I found it so difficult to meet my husband’s gaze. The man who loves me, cherishes me and fights daily for his freedom from addiction. His appearance propelled me back to a time when there was nothing but coldness and indifference in his eyes.
Throughout my day, God gently reminded me that an altered appearance does not reverse the restoration of a heart. Lessons I had received early in my recovery relating to change and transformation surfaced in my thoughts. They are not the same thing.
Change can change again. It involves a modification of behaviour or actions, making something different, and is usually motivated by the realization that something is no longer working to your satisfaction or needs. Change generally seeks improvement whether it is the filing system at work, repainting your house, or cutting your hair. But it is often temporary, either returning to how it was before, or to something else again.
Transformation has a permanence to it. An overhaul. It does involve change, but also a renewal of one’s character, not just actions. It is the result of a repentant heart pursuing and finding healing and freedom. And once it happens, once awakened to the beauty of life, there is no going back. Transformation acknowledges the past, learns from it and celebrates a new way of living.
My husband changed his outward appearance. And he will again. Throughout his life. So will I. But God has transformed his heart just as He has transformed mine. My husband is a new creation. I am a new creation. Our marriage has been rebuilt and redeemed. And that remains the same whether he has hair on his head or not.
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19