I have an auto immune disease called alopecia.
The three forms of alopecia all cause varying amounts of hair loss:
- (alopecia areata) small bald spots on the scalp – this can often be treated successfully with topical or intramuscular injections of steroids
- (alopecia totalis) loss of all hair on the scalp – often with treatment some (but generally not all) hair can grow back
- (alopecia universalis) total loss of all body hair – the rarest form is and there has never been a known case of hair returning permanently with this one.
I have the latter type.
God’s severe mercy
It started to fall out when I was 21 in my senior year of college after spending 4 months on bed rest and 2 weeks in the hospital with a slip disc. When I got up I noticed a bald spot on the back of my head. I just thought it was from rubbing my head on the bed for 4 months (kind of like the bald spot on the back of a newborn’s head). Until I got another bald spot at the end of my part on top. I went to a dermatologist and he gave me about 200 cortisone shots in each bald spot. The hair grew back and I thought that was it.
Four months later (this was all during my senior year of college) another bald spot developed resulting in more cortisone shots. Time passed, I graduated and moved to RURAL West Virginia to teach. Another bald spot showed up but I couldn’t find any dermatologists within a 200 mile radius!! More bald spots showed up and I took to wearing a scarf daily. From September to December almost all the hair on my head fell out. In December I finally found a dermatologist (this was before the days of the internet!). He prescribed high doses of prednisone which required that I be monitored weekly for bloating, bone density loss and blood pressure!!!
After three months on the drugs, no new hair fell out but nothing grew in. The doctor said this was as good as it was going to get!! So I decided that the side effects of long term high dosages of steroids was NOT worth the risks compared to total baldness so I stopped using them. From February to April I lost all the rest of my body hair.
A tough time and a desperate prayer
This was a tough time for me in many ways:
- It was my first year of teaching (and the head teacher in my grade level was actively working to get me fired because she was upset that her daughter really loved my class and that I was using lots of games and learning centers in my classroom and she couldn’t see how that could be *real* teaching).
- I was a new believer and there were NO solid churches anywhere near me (one dear sweet young preacher told me he would LOVE to have me come to his church but couldn’t recommend it because he didn’t want me to lose my love for the Lord as his church was simply awaiting a shovel of dirt to completely prove it was spiritually dead!!).
- AND God had just been beginning to teach me that being a female might not be such a bad thing!
I had been a radical feminist in college who abhorred anything that smacked of femininity! I wore overalls, a baseball cap, smoked a corncob pipe and did my laundry in the tub with a plunger!! But God had used a godly and feminine gal in the discipleship house that I lived in my senior year to change my heart about many things. I changed the way I dressed and many of my ideas. But in 1979, when Farrar Fawcett with her big hair was the style, to go bald was a major loss for what the world saw as feminine!! So, that year…almost alone spiritually in a desolate outpost in WV with my very first job (and much of my self-image as a teacher) on the line I began to pray, “Lord, teach me what it means to be a woman in Your kingdom.”
I remember coming home each day to this tiny little red house in a valley, sitting in my rocking chair and crying.
- crying over another day of harassment and constant observation by the county reading supervisor and Vice Principle
- crying over the loneliness of missed spiritual camaraderie (I had lived in a discipleship household of 11 women before I graduated college!)
- crying over handfuls of hair all over my shirt, jacket and covering my pillow each morning!
I’d sit in my rocking chair, crying and yet rejoicing that God was still there with me, loving me in the middle of it all. And I can, to this day, still feel (it was a real tangible feeling) His loving arms around me rocking me to sleep!
The transforming power of the Word and His love
And He took me through Proverbs 31 that year – teaching me what a woman in His kingdom was supposed to look like. It was probably the best year of my life! I learned things, out of a desperate need to know, that I may never have even wanted to know in times past. I changed completely that year and I have never been more grateful for any other blessing in my life!
I found a dear Christian couple who became very very close friends (and my only real solace in a spiritual desert). Their friendship went on way beyond that year in WV and has been dear to me all these years. I returned to Boston a changed woman, renewed dear friendships (and lost one other with a gal who couldn’t emotionally handle what God allowed in my life) and began a life journey that has shown me that being a woman in God’s kingdom has nothing to do with what I look like on the outside. It is the hidden beauty of the heart, the sweetness of a quiet and gentle spirit (not to be confused with a quiet personality, but a spirit at rest with God and His will for us) and a life devoted to surrender to Him in abundant and overflowing joy.
THESE are the things that will last for eternity and which bring praise and honor to His Name.
THESE are the things that reflect image of feminine that God had in His mind when He created the companion for Adam.
Now, I just need to continue to learn how to implement them more and more into my life as He transforms me to the image of the Son.