So, today I’d like to let you in on a little secret: I’m losing my hair. That probably comes as no surprise to you, especially if you’ve seen me in person lately. And it’s no surprise to me – my barber told me about my thinning hair when I was sixteen years old. But it’s on my mind again this week. I call my receding hairline “The Retreat of the Soldiers.”
It’s very much like a battlefield on my forehead. (All right, so it’s not very much like one at all.) As my hair has thinned out, the “front lines” have been slowly fading away. Half a year ago, I noticed that I had a small cluster of four or five hairs “holding the line” at the very front of my hairline. But this week, that cluster is down to a single soldier – one last man at his post, bravely fighting the battle against time and genetics.
I cut that hair off this week, because it looked pretty silly hanging there on its own. So the front lines have been pushed back another few millimeters, the troops are regrouping, and in the back of my mind I know this is a losing battle. After all, my father is bald (except for a ring around the sides and back), and my older brother is farther along in the process than I am. But I take comfort in the fact that God takes special care of bald people; the next time you want to poke fun at a bald head, just read 2 Kings 2:23-24. See what I mean?!
Seriously, though, I have been reflecting on the passing of time this week. In the past, I had a much fuller head of hair than I do now. In the future, my head will probably look more like my father’s than it does today. The retreat of the soldiers is an opportunity for me to take stock of where I am now, in comparison to both the past and the future.
We as Christians – just like people everywhere – are very good at comparing where we are to where we have been. We remember previous pastors, old conventions, personal stories from the past, experiences at other churches, and so forth. And it is certainly good to have a long memory, because our memories can provide comfort and assurance of God’s presence in difficult times. They can also help us evaluate the present day and the changes it brings. On the other hand, comparing the present to the past can prevent us from adapting to new circumstances, if those circumstances require us to behave in ways that we haven’t acted before. “It’s always been that way,” so why should we change?
What would our life together be like if we took the approach of comparing the present to the future? Here we are today; what might the future look like? Where do we want to be? Whom do we want to become? How do we want to influence our community for Christ? Comparing our present circumstance to future possibilities can be a powerful way of visioning for tomorrow’s activities.
The front lines on my forehead are slowly retreating. I’m ok with that, really, especially because I can see that I’m only in the middle of the process of losing my hair. What will the future look like? Let’s hope my head is as smooth as a bowling ball. In fact, knowing that I’ll probably end up resembling my father frees me to act as I should today: instead of worrying and obsessing about the last soldier on the front lines, I can cut him off and move on to the rest of the tasks for the day.
What would our church life look like if we envisioned our future and spent time comparing where we are with where we would like to be?