Bored and alone. That's what had me flipping upward on Instagram. Looking for entertainment. Instead I found myself crying. Not in a bad way. But in a rather surprising way. A way I never saw coming. I should have seeing that my friends post gave me ample warning. She wrote, I wasn't in the mood for crying today, but here you go.
What made her cry? What made me cry? Love. It's a powerful emotion we all seek, but we also all see it all around us in the everyday ordinary things of life. Like a video clip of a young woman in her early 20's sitting on stool in her bathroom. Her boyfriend is causually walking around her with a set of electric clippers in his hand. A buzz here A buzz there. Nothing very shocking or emotional by any means. Yet, I watched. What was so emotional?
As the young woman admired her hair in the mirror, it took her (and me) a moment to realize what the boyfriend was doing behind her. He just began to shave his head too. Overcome by his simple, yet profound act, his girlfriend began to cry. And here's why.
Had I read on in the post I would have learned that the girl was suffering from alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss from part of the head or body. Typically at least the head is involved. And I assume this was the case with the young girl. But it was out of an act of love that the boyfriend (who had an amazing head of hair) wanted to show solidarity with her. He wanted to stand in her shoes, or perhaps he didn't want her to stand alone. With no hair to hide behind.
I've seen dozens of video clips like this. A young child loses his hair due to chemo for his cancer, and his entire baseball team shaves their heads so he doesn't feel alone. The dad who does it for a daughter, or the daughter who does it for her dad. In fact, they are so common these days that it's surprising that they are still able to move me. Often to tears. But they do.
When I think about it, I can't help but think this is God in our midst. Shaving in solidarity. Loving unconditionally. It's such a common occurrence that we often overlook the sacredness and the holy. And yet, I weep just thinking about it. That's the kind of love and compassion given to me. Each time I fuck up. There is God. Picking me up and teaching me a new way to do whatever it was I was trying to do.
The Hebrew people have a word for this kind of divine love: hesed. It's an everlasting, steadfast, uncompromising love that really only God can offer. It's a love and kindness that endures all pain and persists even when rejected. The kind of love that will just pick up a set of clippers and start shaving so we don't ever have to feel alone.
Henri Nouwen reminds us that "Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God’s loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love."
Hesed, steadfast love, was there before anything was created. Dare I say, it is exactly what caused creation in the first place. If that is the case, and we were created out of such great love, then we possess the kind of love that can look into someone's eyes and show mercy; that can take hold of someone's hand and show compassion despite their nationality or skin color.
It's the kind of love that offers grace when someone messes up; love that simply given away because one's heart is overflowing with goodness that was born out of hesed. The kind of love that moves you to tears knowing it's yours if you want it.
Compassion. Mercy. Grace. Love. Hesed. God asks us to go to the places where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share our brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish with those who are there with us. God "challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears...to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless."
Compassion. Mercy. Grace. Love. Hesed means full immersion in the condition of being human like God's own investment in us. Even if it means picking up a pair of electric clippers and shaving your head.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”