I can’t stand having my hair in my face. It’s either in a ponytail or pulled back in a clip or tucked behind my ears. It’s almost an involuntary obsession. I don’t even realize I’m fussing with it most of the time.
Just now I was annoyed by my hair again. I thought about grabbing the ponytail holder I’ve been using for the last few days but decided against it. I picked through the basket holding all my hair accoutrements looking for a perfect pony. I picked several up and stretched them out, testing the tension in their elastic finally settling on one. And as I pulled my hair up into a ponytail I realized that the perfect pony for me is also a perfect metaphor for some aspects of the Christian life.
So let me tell you about my perfect ponytail holder and maybe you’ll see what I see, that we should all be weak ponies.
I have a lot of hair. It’s something I think most women want and I have to admit it’s always made it easy to do a lot of different hairstyles with my mop. But several years ago I was in a small car accident. The car I was in was rear-ended and I suffered whiplash. I’ve had to see chiropractors on and off for years because of it. Suddenly having a lot of hair wasn’t such an asset. Just about any hairstyle can easily cause a tension headache and bring on neck pain or worse, a migraine. I have to be pretty careful what I use in my hair.
My favorite hairstyle for comfort is easily a ponytail. It’s also the hairstyle that can most easily cause a tension headache. So for me, when choosing a ponytail holder I have to look for some very specific qualities.
A) I prefer the larger sized ponies because they hold more hair. And I have a lot of hair.
B) I use thicker ponytail holders. They tend to last longer and I’m pretty hard on my ponies. Even though I use the larger size, they can get stretched out quickly.
C) I need a weak pony. I want one that has a lot of give but doesn’t feel like it will snap when I stretch it. If the elastic is too strong I’ll get a headache. BUT if it’s too weak I’ll break it.
Okay, you’re thinking, what’s the metaphor, Bonnie? I mean, it seems like you’re kind of just rambling about hair and ponytail holders. And for some reason you keep calling them ponies.
Yes, I am rambling. It’s what I’m good at, so try to keep up.
A) I can’t use a small ponytail. They don’t hold enough hair. I have to be able to wrap the pony around the tail at least 3 times or it won’t hold. Twice is not enough. Four times causes headaches. Three. It’s my prime number, baby. Therefore, I cannot use a small pony.
Don’t be small. Don’t be small minded. Keep yourself open to the possibility that you are wrong.
6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
When James told us to “resist the devil and he will flee”, he was talking about pride. Pride is Satan’s main thang. He loves it when we’re full of pride. It’s how he ensnared Adam and Eve. It’s the way he tried AND FAILED to tempt Jesus in the desert. Pride keeps us thinking we’re right and closes our minds causing us to be SMALL.
But here’s the truth, whether you want to hear it or not: YOU’RE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.
I know far too many people, Christians or otherwise, who always believe they are right. They will argue against every point you make and, in general, are not open to any ideas that did not originate in their own minds. They are small minded because they are not open to the possibility that they are wrong. Their pride won’t allow it. They’re small.
Don’t be small.
B) I can’t use a thin pony. I used to love them because they can be quite stretchy but they break too easily. And nothing annoys me more than a pony that snaps while I’m pulling up my hair.
Don’t be thin. Don’t be thin skinned and easily offended.
33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Believe it or not, being easily offended goes right back to pride. I hate to say it but a lot of our struggles in life stem from our pride. Pride tells us that everyone should be okay with us because we’re good people and we’re likable. But the truth is, no matter how “likable” we may be, haterz gon’ hate. We WILL face persecution. Our hearts will DEFINITELY come under attack. We WILL be hurt.
And if we spend a little time examining ourselves and losing a little of our pride, we might not like what we see so much. We might see that we’ve hurt people, we’ve been unlikable, maybe even a giant buttface. I’ve definitely been a giant buttface more than my fair share of times. If I’m thin skinned, all I can see or feel is my own hurt, my own wound. But when I get a thicker skin, I’m able to see that I’ve hurt others, I need to stop being offended and do my best to make things right.
Every argument has 2 sides. And unless you’re dealing with an actual psychopath, there’s every reason to believe that you hurt them just as much as they hurt you. If we only see and feel our own hurt, we don’t stand much of a chance of reconciliation. We have to get a thicker skin and man up.
Don’t be thin.
C) I can’t use a strong pony. If the elastic is too strong I’ll definitely get a headache. I need one that is malleable, pliable, easily manipulated. I need a pony I can bend to my will. (Insert evil laughter here.)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
You probably know what I’m going to type here before I even type it. Pride. It’s pride again, y’all. Pride, PRIDE, pride, pride. Pride.
When we first came to Jesus, we knew we were a broken mess. We acknowledged our lowly state and confessed that we were sinners. In the early years of our Christian walk, we stumbled at times, fell back into old patterns of sin and had to run back to the arms of Jesus once again. But as the years went by, it became easier to say no to sin. It became easier to look and act like a saint instead of a sinner. And there can be only 2 reasons we got that good. One: we spent time with the Holy Spirit, we sought out Jesus and His spirit guided us, shaping us as a potter shapes the clay. Or, two: our longing to fit into the Christian dynamic drove us to change our behavior until we looked like a Christian is “supposed” to look. I think for most people, it’s a little bit of both.
At any rate, once we’ve gotten through the messy stages of our early Christian walk, it can become all too easy to begin seeing ourselves as strong individuals. We stop seeing the brokenness in ourselves because we no longer give in to the sin that so easily beset us before. But that strength we see in ourselves is a lie. It’s only our pride flaring up again and holding us back. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. How then can he make his power perfect in us if we do not have weakness? The answer is, he can’t.
Strength is not strength. It is weakness. Weakness is strength.
Acknowledging our weakness before God means we are dropping that wall of pride that keeps God from us. Because pride is a wall, my friends, and don’t ever think any differently.
Rich Mullins said it best when he said, “We are not as strong as we think we are.”
Dear friends, don’t be strong.
Be a weak pony. God can use a weak pony.
Oh, and by the way, when I do find a ponytail holder that has the perfect amount of tension, when I find one that is weak but doesn’t break – I care for it, protecting it, using it gently so that it lasts. I keep it with me and even bring back up ponies so that if anyone asks to borrow a ponytail holder from me, I won’t have to give up that perfect pony.
When we drop our pride, opening our minds, not letting ourselves become easily offended and acknowledging our weakness, we’re placing ourselves firmly in God’s loving hands and trusting him to care for us.
When we cling to our pride, staying small minded, insisting we’re right, becoming offended when someone doesn’t agree with us, forgetting that we are wicked, broken creatures, we’re putting up a wall of pride and essentially uninviting God to the party.
Be a weak pony. Let God care for you.