Though head-covering can be a rewarding spiritual discipline, I’ll admit that it’s fraught with its own difficulties, particularly if you live in a culture where head-covering is an anomaly for Christians. There are so many dilemmas you have to sort through as you decide how to implement this practice in your life that it can bog you down and make you wonder why you even started this whole crazy thing.
My most significant internal struggle has an external focus: What will people think? I’ve always been a bit of a nonconformist (a euphemism for “weirdo”), so I’m used to not going along with the crowd or fitting in to some degree. But head-covering takes it to the next level. Beyond weirdness, I also fear that people will think I’m stuck up or pietistic or holier-than-thou, or that I’m from some religious cult (or, at a minimum, that I’m not an orthodox Lutheran), or that I judge women who don’t cover their hair, and so on. When my son gets a little bit older, I will have to think more about his need for normalcy. How much do I do my own thing because I’m the adult, and how much do I try to spare him from unkind comments by his peers? Will he think I’m a religious fanatic and reject the faith, or will he respect my attempt to live consistently with my beliefs and worldview?
Another set of questions stems out from the ones above. In light of those questions, how should I cover in a given situation? What balance do I strike between what I consider to be ideal (for prayer and/or modesty) and what would be more socially acceptable? If I wear a wide headband in public, which I don’t consider to be adequate for church or (at least more formal) prayer, should I also carry a scarf in case I do decide to pray or have an opportunity to discuss my faith, or can the headband be enough in this case?*
These are questions with no easy solution. It would be easier, I think, if I had more of a support group–other Christian women who cover, especially women in my own community, and especially Lutherans. Without such support, though, I sometimes make choices I don’t want to make, but feel compelled to by external pressure. I keep hoping for the day when I have the answers all sorted out for myself and I don’t have to worry about these questions anymore; I can just enjoy all the aspects of head-covering that do bring me joy. I think that day will come, but I also think it’s necessary for me to go through the struggle before I can arrive at peace.
One thing I know is that simply deciding to stop is not the solution. I know it would bring me less peace, not more. So I keep on from day to day, often making it up as I go along, sometimes doing things I regret–yet growing in confidence, learning new things, and coming to a better understanding, to better ideas, getting closer and closer to my goal. Because every now and then I do feel like I hit the nail on the head. Every now and then I think, I’m glad I wore that particular covering today–and yes, sometimes, I’m glad I didn’t wear a covering in that situation.
I’ll close with an example. I ended my experiment with full-time head-covering on a Saturday. The next day, a Sunday, I wore an infinity scarf to church and pulled it over my head (“infinity veil” style). Afterwards, I went to eat out with my son, and I didn’t want to wear that style in public, so I was going to loop the scarf twice over my head and tie it back like a ponytail. Except that I forgot to bring something to tie it back with. So I decided to go bare-headed and just wear the scarf around my neck. When we sat down to eat, I pulled the scarf over my head to say the blessing, and then I dropped it back around my neck during the meal. When I was first starting out on my head-covering journey, that would have felt very uncomfortable to me; I thought it would be less awkward to put something over my head just for prayer than it would be simply to have a covering on to begin with. But after pushing my comfort zone so much and getting used to looking odd in public, I no longer felt strange doing things that way; in fact, it felt like the most natural action in the world. And at that moment, for that time and place and for me personally, I knew I had struck the balance just right.
Head-covering is not easy. Anyone who tells you it is, who isn’t lying, is most likely either surrounded by supportive people and other women who do it, or has been doing it so long that she has forgotten the difficult early days, or is blessed with an almost superhuman ability not to care what others think. Many or most of us in America and elsewhere today do not fall into the first three categories, and we have to pray hard for the courage to do what we do.
So, my dear sister in Christ, take heart. You are not alone in your struggles. Most importantly, know that God is with you. He will sustain you; look to Him for strength.
*For the purposes of this post, I do believe it’s within Christian freedom to cover or not cover in public, provided that no offense is given by not covering. I have determined to make it my practice to cover in church and at times of prayer or Bible study, regardless of whether Scripture actually requires it today.