Wait, you’re a redhead?
Lately I’ve had a few people express surprise when I mention my red hair. This has surprised me as my hair color has been a defining feature for as long as I can remember. As a redhead, I have stood out in groups by virtue of having such a unique hair color. I have been teased about it more times than I can count. I have identified with the Lucille Balls, Ariels, and Anne Shirleys of the world. Despite hating my hair color when I was younger (especially in those adolescent years when the last thing you want to be is different), I have come to love and appreciate my red hair. I’m still working on loving my freckles (I can tolerate them), but my hair has become an identity for me.
So, what does it mean when your identifying feature is no longer identifiable?
Honestly, I did not realize how much I was attached to my hair. When people question my hair color I am surprised to find myself defensive. I hold it up for them. I point out how it is really obvious in the sun. I show them photos of me when I was younger. I am incredulous? How can you not see the red? Sure, my hair is more auburn than true red, but it’s still in that family. Right?
Part of my path this last decade has been seeing who I really am and learning to love my true self. It has not come easily. However, learning to not just tolerate, but love my red hair has been significant for me. Perhaps more significant than it needed to be. The truth is that I find identity in my hair. I love how it makes me unique. I appreciate how it made me fit in a bit when I lived in the UK. I glory in the fact that people pay lots of money to dye their hair red and I get it for free. I have a fiery temper to go with my fiery hair. I like standing out.
When I was in seminary, one of my professors had us go through a series of prayers each morning to remind ourselves of who we truly are. One of the prayers had us renounce our identities. My primary identity is not daughter, sister, retreat planner, writer, nerd, or spiritual director. My truest identity is that of Christ’s loved child.
Today, I am reminded that my primary identity is not found in being a redhead. And I’m learning to be ok with that.
In case you’re curious, here’s an excerpt from the prayer:
Affirm that you are a finite spirit.
a. Disregard all the potential idols of your soul. Expose and invalidate
the false identities, which give you a false sense of who you are. (Confess
At the core of my spirit, I am not a father or mother. I am not a husband or a wife. I am not a daughter or a son. I am not a friend. I am not a student. I am not a kind person. I am not an angry person. I’m not a (fill in the blank).
b. Affirm the reality of your soul’s true identity.
I was created for union with God. I came into the world as a naked spirit, longing for perfect love. I am now clothed with Christ’s righteousness and long for a deepening oneness with God. I am precious in God’s eyes. He holds me with an everlasting embrace. God calls me His beloved. That is who I truly am. (Confess any idolatry.)
Excerpt from PRAYER OF RECOLLECTION, by Dr. John H. Coe, Director, Institute for Spiritual Formation, Talbot School of Theology