What I couldn't put into words when Joe was done was, "But I really liked my hair, long."
I was ineffably sad in this after-cut pic because so much of my identity was wrapped up in that hair and nobody seemed to care that I wasn't much sure who I was without it. I was still sorting me out and no one was much helping. In fairness, a large proportion of my people were fighting cancer for their own lives at the time.
The expressions on my face are what the befores always look like when you are paying attention. And I'm learning as a husband, as a daddy, as a friend: to really pay attention. To invest my minutes in the the minute and my moments in the momentous: or I may miss it.
Like my sister spotted one of those I-missed-it moments when she was back for a visit recently. She heard just barely under the breath of one of our three favorites: "Like it matters.." That's what a hidden oucher sounds like--a little indifference, a little aggression.
I always see it like the minimize button--it is actually a minus sign or a dash but it shuts the window down. The problem is: when you hit too many minimize buttons, you can actually crash your system.
1993, I discovered this Eric Clapton song about the time I moved to Costa Rica to hide out from all the pains of dying and it was haunting because at times it felt like maybe who I was becoming.
"I must be invisible
No one knows me.
I have crawled down dead-end streets
On my hands and knees.
I was born with a ragin' thirst,
A hunger to be free,
But I've learned through the years.
Don't encourage me.
'cause I'm a lonely stranger here,
Well beyond my day.
And I don't know what's goin' on,
So I'll be on my way.
When I walk, stay behind;
Don't get close to me,
'cause it's sure to end in tears,
So just let me be.
Some will say that I'm no good;
Maybe I agree.
Take a look then walk away.
That's all right with me."
The enemy mocks us in our calling. Anyone who knows me today: nearly category by category, the fight of my life has been to become the opposite of this song: surrounded by people I love and trust, genuinely known, authentic, encouraging, shooting shame zombies and their brain-leech associates in the head.
But for a long time, it was a soundtrack for me because it sounded a lot like who I thought I maybe was.
In our family system, I was "the lost boy". "Has anyone seen Michael?" was one of the most frequent questions asked when I was little. I would vanish for hours down by our pond and head down to the ravine and explore--by myself.
My mama was just taking pictures trying to cheer me on into this new fabulous career I wasn't at all convinced I wanted because I didn't see how it had anything to do with me. There aren't enough terabytes of storage for the photos this lady would have taken had she made it into the digital age. But she caught two of me in old 35mm within forty-five minutes that speak loud-volumes to me about that time in my life.
I think they are pretty instructive for how we can miss loving people we want to love well sometimes, if we aren't paying close enough attention. Oops, missed that catch; txting. Oops, missed that question, FB. Oops, news over you won what?
Do you have some photo albums you ought to dig out and some photos you might want to reverse engineer? Some of them are harder to look at than others but I would encourage you--open up, open them up and try to remember or ask those who were around what was really going on in that shot.
Ask the Holy Spirit to point a couple out to you. It is never too late to re-sensitize a tired heart. God redeems time. It is His thing.
All over Daniel Chapter 7, he says, "I kept looking."
We are all in a season right now, I believe, where there is such a deep need to be seen and to keep looking.
I don't want to take the pictures if I'm missing the moment--when the need of someone I'm here to love is quietly shrieking at me.
The after-shot, when I'm blowing on my fingers gazing into a mirror and I can't see myself is one of the most haunting photographs of my young life.
It is in some ways, that lonesome and scared kid, surrounded by cancer and an identity crisis of epic proportion is the instigator of me learning to prioritize the "there you are" mindset. Though, trying to get that loneliness need met sometimes has looked more like "here I am!"
In a listening prayer session once, the Holy Spirit connected for me the above-photographs to this powerful scene when I was too little to understand what was going on.
I couldn't have been more than five and I was doing something a little naughty apparently and my Mama and Grandpa Meggison were having a little fun at my expense.
"Oh, has anyone seen Michael?"
"I right here, mama."
"Oh no, Michael is such a good boy. That John, he is the naughty one. John is here today."
John is my middle name and He showed me that I felt like I had actually disappeared and they couldn't see me.
And she and my grandpa cut up over my little super-traumatizer. But He arrived on the scene and held me, hands clasped over my heart. They didn't know what was happening: He did.
You may have noticed I'm pretty into names and I've become wildly self-aware.
And copious amounts of healing have come from various forms of listening prayer: learning from Jesus He never leaves; He is always listening and actually knows me a thousand times better than I think I know me.
So, I keep looking. And He keeps looking. There is this principle in quantum physics: the observer changes the observed.
It's how we discover stories deep. We keep looking.
You know what was time redemptive in the hair arena?
This green-haired girl at the ice cream shoppe in Minnesota last summer.
I told her how much I loved it when I took York on an adventure that landed us in her ice cream shoppe.
She said she was afraid old people wouldn't like it; I said we couldn't help but dig it--way too awesome not to.
Her whole body lit up: she tangibly felt noticed.
York being York on our way to sit down outside on the bench, said, "I really like when you do that."
I said, "What's that, pal?"
He said, "The way you're always nice to people."
I said, "Why do you think I am?"
He said, "I don't know."
I said, "It doesn't cost anything but it means everything to people," and then, "Do you suppose a girl with green hair might have a little need for attention?"
He smiled, nodding.
Maybe instead of just the greys, we can start looking for the greens...