“Miss Becca, your hair is undisciplined.”

It was a summer afternoon many years ago, and the small (straight-haired) damsel I was babysitting was clearly a bit disturbed by the effects of the humidity on my curly tresses.

I laughed. I am not particularly distraught by the fact that I never know how my hair will look from day to day. It’s not so much undisciplined as it is simply uncontrollable. I’ve learned to embrace it.

But trust me, it’s not from lack of trying to control it. I’ve had many a straight-haired person tell me how “lucky” I am that I can just “wash it and go.” And that’s probably what it looks like from the number of places where I’ve shown up with wet hair!

But the reality is that I have to leave just the right amount of conditioner in it, put in just the right amount of product, finger curl every curl, let it drip dry, and hope the curls won’t frizz too terribly. It’s best if I don’t touch it or go outside at all until it’s completely dry, which could take several hours.  

Most days, I don’t have several hours before I leave the house.

Attempting to control curls is – well, it’s like attempting to herd those proverbial cats. Can I get an amen, curly girls?

But like all things, curls can teach valuable life lessons. There are several ways my curls teach me about life, but the most recurring lesson is that life is not always controllable. Discipline does not always give us the results we desire.

We might have an illusion of control because we try to do our best to take life by the horns and make it what we want it to be. And there’s an element of that effort that’s good. God did, after all, tell Adam and Eve to “rule the earth and subdue it.” And we do have control over our own words, actions, and choices.

But we often extend that responsibility and think we’re also supposed to control everything and everyone else!

So when the to-do list has items unchecked because we think we should be able to do 25 things today and we can really only do 5… when relationships rub us ugly… when recessions hit (and retirement accounts suffer) or jobs get lost (and not quickly found)… when spouses and/or babies don’t come along, or spouses and/or babies do come along and they aren’t what we expected… when people don’t act or speak like we want them to… when (fill in the blank of whatever has you frustrated today)…

When life feels out of control, part of the internal jab to my soul is that I think life should be controllable. And as long as I think that I am in control – despite evidence to the contrary – an additional layer of shame gets heaped on to whatever frustration I’m experiencing.

Then I take a look at my hair. Some days, my curls coil perfectly. Some days, it’s a frizz fest that looks like a hot mess. But every day, it’s the hair that God, in His good and perfect love, gave to me. And every day, He loves me. I know, my cray cray hair seems so frivolous in light of what’s uncontrollable in life, but you know, sometimes I just really need a very simple, very concrete illustration. Especially when life is otherwise out of control.

Although I used to wash my hair daily in an attempt to control it, I have learned in more recent years that daily washing is terrible for it! Curls are, in fact, more delicate and breakable than straight hair. Who knew? Not me for a long time.

As it turns out, sometimes you just have to let curls alone to take a breather, or go get a haircut, or do a hot oil treatment or a hair mask to rehydrate them. When curls start to look particularly stressed, you have to take some time out to take care of them!

Heh – there’s a sermon illustration for you. At the risk of making you feel like I’m tying a tidy bow on top of a mass of crazy curls (a bow which, let’s be honest, could easily get lost in the frizz):

When you’re feeling particularly stressed by circumstances or people beyond your control, you can at least take care of your own heart. Take some deep breaths, spend some time with God (who absolutely loves you!), go see a good counselor, take a walk, or take a weekend away someplace restful. And maybe it’s time to release what you can’t control and embrace the curls you have.