By Justin Rossow
I just got my first professional haircut in 38 weeks. I hadn’t been counting, but the salon’s computer was keeping track. As the stylist cut my hair, we talked through our masks.
Mostly, she said, people have just been growing their hair long. Some are coming in with really uneven buzz cuts or a few holes in the back. She’s even seen a couple of mullets: “They were ugly when I was a kid; they are ugly now.”
Then she mentioned how many “Zoom haircuts” she has seen in the last few weeks. It seems people are only concerned with what they look like from the front, as they speak into a computer camera, with the result that a whole segment of the population is coming back to professional haircuts with the backs of their heads grown unkempt and wild. Who knew?
But when the only thing anyone ever sees is the front of your head, who needs more than a Zoom cut?
I wonder how often I live my life like that: only taking care of what I show other people. I wonder how often I have settled for a Zoom cut, when being a whole or complete person would have taken more work or more energy or more time. I wonder how often my heart has grown unkempt and wild while on the outside I looked professionally acceptable.
Have you seen the cardboard cutouts in the stands at sports stadiums this fall? They look like real people from one angle, but they have no depth, no substance.
I want to be a person of substance.
So how do I do that? How do I move beyond living like a cardboard cutout with a Zoom haircut?
Time and time again, when God reaches into the lives of real people, the message comes with the command “Fear not!” and the blessing “Peace be with you!” Peace, as a biblical concept, is related to the idea of wholeness. More than merely the absence of war, Shalom is about being complete, being whole, having depth and substance and lacking nothing. To have peace is to be a whole person or a whole community.
Fear, I think, must do the opposite. Fear flattens. Fear makes us less of who we are and narrows our experience. Fear turns us into cardboard cutouts, there just for show. Fear makes us cut the front and sides of our hair, so people can’t tell how much we are struggling off-camera. Fear shrinks. Peace makes whole.
So how do I listen to the “Fear not!” of the Christmas angels? How do I hold onto and put myself under the Easter evening words “Peace be with you!” spoken by the risen Savior? How do I move beyond living like a cardboard cutout with a Zoom haircut?
1. Be Whole With Jesus
If you are going to be real with anybody, start by being real with Jesus. He already knows you and loves you. You can be the real you, the whole you, the complete you as you spend time with Jesus in his Word and in prayer.
Being wholly you means being broken, too. Sharing with Jesus what you are really thinking and feeling isn’t as easy or pious as it sounds. What if you don’t feel like praying right now? (You can tell Jesus that.) What if your faith feels distant or small? (You can tell Jesus that.) What if your life off-camera is a total mess? (Jesus already knows that, so talking to him about it can be a relief.)
Sometimes I wonder if I am not afraid of being more than a Flat Stanley version of myself because the Whole Me is so much more complicated and sinful and frustrating and confusing than the 2D version I put out for the world to see.
Don’t be afraid. You come to a risen Savior who freely gives peace. Trust Jesus with all of who you are. That’s one small step toward living as a more complete person.
2. Be Whole With Others
We follow Jesus better when we follow him together. The shepherds who first heard the “Fear not!” outside Bethlehem were keeping watch over their flocks by night …. together. The disciples who first heard the risen Jesus say “Peace be with you” were gathered in the Upper Room … together. In fact, Jesus shows up in that gathering while two disciples are in the middle of sharing what happened to them on the road to Emmaus … together.
Fear flattens. And fear isolates. All alone, your world shrinks until your family and friends get a cardboard cutout version of you, and your work only sees the Zoom cut.
It’s hard to be whole with others in an age of social distancing. I’ve tried some Facebook group Bible studies that have helped, but they aren’t a silver bullet. Texting a prayer or encouragement is good; but it’s not all.
I think we will always struggle to find, cultivate, and nurture relationships that help us follow Jesus. That’s OK. Keep fighting for that kind of friendship forged by the Spirit. Finding time, being open, staying connected–all of that is always hard, and even harder during COVID. Don’t give up.
You need someone else to speak the “Fear nots” and the “Peace be with yous” into your life. You need someone to look for Jesus active in your life when you can’t see clearly. You need someone to cut the back of your hair, because that mullet just isn’t working.
We need other people as we follow Jesus. And that’s a good thing. Practice being a little more of your whole (but broken) self with someone else. Living like that is dangerous–other people will see what you have hidden behind the facade–but other people can also help you bring even what’s behind the facade into the light.
3. Rest Wholly on God’s Grace
If you want to be a whole person in a fallen and sinful world, your own fallen, sinful life will be part of the equation. To live in 3D you will have to bump into things you don’t like about yourself. Your failures will be clear to you. What you hide off-camera will sometimes seem like more of a reality that the face you show the world.
That’s a good thing.
You can’t be a whole person, a person of peace, without recognizing how broken and empty the “real you” actually is. (We show our Zoom persona to ourselves at least as often as we show it to others.) Taking a 360-degree look at our hearts and lives can drive us to despair. That’s one reason we so seldom look behind the curtain.
That kind of a total mess needs a total Savior. Your Jesus knows the whole you, the you with all the failures and holes and broken pieces. And your Jesus delights in who you are now, and who you are going to be when you are finally made complete; when you also pass from death to resurrection life, just like he did; when you are finally whole because the beautiful creation that is you, the real you, will have finally been made new.
That resurrection, New Creation life starts already now. Your whole person, steeped in God’s grace, is both an abject failure and a shining beauty.
Whenever you want to run and hide behind that flat version of you, because it feels safe, remember that no cardboard cutout can give life. When you don’t feel safe, run to Jesus instead. When your off-camera reality is overwhelming, run to Jesus. When the real you is really messed up, run to Jesus.
Jesus says to you again today, “Fear not; it is I.” Jesus shows up in your Upper Room, shut and locked as it is, and says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus holds the broken pieces of your life and makes you whole.
If you want to be a whole person in an age of Zoom haircuts, be whole with Jesus. He can handle the whole you; and he loves the whole you! Then risk being whole with someone who can point you back to Jesus; we need each other on this journey of faith. Finally, rest wholly on God’s grace. Of course the real you is a real, sinful mess; throw yourself on God’s mercy and ask the Spirit to forgive you, renew you, and lead you, so that you may delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways to the glory of God’s holy name. That’s living as a whole person.
Living as whole person like that is not easy or comfortable, but it is joyful and full of adventure! And it sure beats living as a cardboard cutout.