I have a confession to make: in recent months I have become quite vain about my hair. While my pixie cut was growing out in the summer of 2015, I would spend a fair bit of time trying to coerce it into some sort of passable style. Anyone who has grown out short hair can relate to my struggles! The growing phase was so awkward at times and I wanted nothing more than to chop it off again. But I persevered (perhaps too dramatic of a word?) and my hair became more manageable, and downright nice looking! I figured out how to naturally define my curl, and began experimenting with different styles. And then something else happened: people began complimenting me on my hair! And I liked it.
Hair styling became an obsession, and I would spend far too much time on Pinterest, and then trying to recreate styles I saw. While that can be a fun and harmless activity, it had grown into an unhealthy pastime of mine. Pastime may not be the correct word to use…I would get all worked up because I couldn’t style my hair the way I saw online, or it wasn’t cooperating, or the curls were not hanging right. Instead of doing my hair in a style I, or my husband, liked I focussed on what would attract attention and compliments from other people. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but I feel like it needs to be said.
I knew I had a problem, so I asked for advice from the ladies in my Modest Young Women Facebook group. One member shared something that she does when she starts feeling vain about her hair: put it in a bun and wear a head covering.
Head covering is not a common practice in my area. I think the only churches or religious organizations that practice it are the very conservative Jewish ladies (but there are no Jewish communities within two hours of my town) and the Muslims in the larger town near me. But I know that head covering is quite a hot topic among Christians! Is it practical? Is it relevant? Does 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 really need to be practiced today?
Believe me when I say this is an issue I have been thinking about for quite some time. I have read many arguments saying that Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth is absolutely relevant to us today, and others that say we can ignore the whole head covering thing because it was only applicable to that culture. Some state that NOT wearing a covering is an outright sin, others argue that it is not that big a deal. Even amongst those that are pro-covering there are differing views on what type of covering is acceptable (whole hair, partial hair, scarf, hat, etc). One Facebook friend of mine says she is unsure if head covering is a commandment still applicable today, but didn’t want to take a chance that it was not, so in order to please God, she covers (which makes sense to me!).
Here is what 1 Corinthians 11 says:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonour to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God (NASB translation).
I know that passage gets wordy and a little confusing; I do not claim to understand it all. But the bolded verse is what I want to make note of. As with everything else in our lives, God gives us freedom of choice. There are parts of these verses I have a hard time agreeing with, such as it being disgraceful for a woman to have short hair, which is why I had shrugged off the idea of head covering in the modern Church. That verse in bold makes me realize that I have the choice to cover my hair or not. Just as I have the choice to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, submit to my husband, read my Bible, fellowship with other believers, dress in a modest way, and more. After some praying, and reflecting, I decided to try head covering to see if it helped with my vanity.
I had listened to a podcast about head covering and the woman speaking said something along the lines of “wearing a head covering makes a woman more aware of herself and her actions and reminds her to be meek, gentle, modest, and so on”. Even though I had not yet accepted head covering at the time I heard that podcast, I was searching for validity in the practice, and that resonated with me.
This post has turned out to be quite lengthy and I am still not finished, but I have a lot to say on this topic!
In April I decided to try head covering combined with a basic braid, on days that I was feeling especially vain about my hair. At first I just wore a simple headband that was not very wide, that I had made from a scrap of cotton. Admittedly it felt weird wearing one because I had previously NEVER worn headbands (the store bought kind were always too tight for me and gave me a migraine), but after a few days I began to like it. Not only did it keep my hair off my face, but I was able to spend only five minutes doing the braid and slipping on the headband. I didn’t have to worry about what my hair looked like or if it stayed in place. It was very much an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude! I soon added more headbands to my rotation, and began wearing them to church (even if I was not feeling vain that day).
A few days ago I sewed myself a new, larger headband to cover more of my hair, as a practical measure more than anything, since I wanted to wear my hair down but there was too much to be contained by a small band. So far wearing a head covering has made me more aware of how I carry myself, because I know I am wearing an outward symbol of my Christianity. I am not certain that people who see me with it on know that I am a Christian, but I feel like I can be a better ambassador for Christ while wearing it. Additionally, wearing a head covering has challenged me to reevaluate all aspects of my life in terms of modesty:
- Do I share too much online?
- Am I talking for the sake of talking or do I really have something important or uplift to say?
- Are my clothes reflecting my character?
- Do I need to have this much stuff in my home?
I have enjoyed my experience with head covering for the last 6+ weeks and fully intend to continue. There are still some elements of it that I am unclear on, but I am slowly working towards what makes sense to me. I know that talking about a modest and humble head covering can seem hypocritical, but I am not doing so to say “look how modest I am because I cover some of my hair”. I am sharing my thoughts on this topic because I am sure there are some of you who are wondering if this is right for you, too. In case you are wondering, I have not abandoned hair styling all together, but I tend to stick to a few basic styles now.
My hope is that my words will cause you to reflect on head covering and prayerfully consider if it is the right practice for you at this time in your life. One year or even three months ago, I was not in a place where I desired to commit to head covering. Doing so then would have felt like a chore, but I believe God patiently allowed me to figure this out in my own time.