This a story about a time I had peanut butter in my hair. Literally. That’s not symbolic for anything. 

Some time ago, I spent about two months in Wilmington, North Carolina as I finished a semester of grad school. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just say it was a season that felt like I was in the fight of my life without an end in sight. Every day, I went to Port City Java and read until the lines blurred. I wrote page after page of a research paper that just about tanked me.

The Infamous Peanut Butter Day started the same as every other day. I’d woke up, went to the gym, spent a few hours at the beach, ran home to grab my homework, and headed over to my usual corner seat by the window at Port City. Only this day proved different, indeed.

At the counter, I ordered my regular, house blend & almond milk, sat down and got to it. Tens minutes turned into an hour; and when I looked up from my textbook and reached for my cup, it was nearly empty. Sliding on my still-sandy flip flops, I walked back up to the counter for my, mind you, second cup of coffee, when the guy working the register said point-blank: “I think you have something in your hair.”

Awesome.

I looked down at my wild curls, tangled from the windows-down ride over, and sure enough, there was unmistakably something in my hair, and that something was peanut butter.

Two thoughts immediately came to mind at that moment. The first, because I am forever sassy, was Why didn’t you tell me that the first time I ordered coffee?

And the second, When did I eat peanut butter?

Over the course of the morning, I’d passed mirrors in the bathroom, glanced at the rearview mirror of my car, stared at my computer screen reflecting my face back to me for HOURS. How did I miss a massive chunk of peanut butter in my hair?

I grabbed a napkin and wiped it away. Half of me thought this is a prime tweet-worthy ‘long hair, don’t care’ moment. But the other half of me felt a sinking sense of alarm.

Because I immediately knew the real root of why I’d missed a sandwich amount size of peanut butter in my hair.

I quit looking at myself in the mirror. 

I’d stopped looking into my own eyes. 

I couldn’t bear seeing someone I didn’t recognize staring back at me in place of the person of whom I used to know. I didn’t want to see someone hollow and fragile and barely breathing standing where someone bolder used to be.

So I missed the peanut butter in my hair.

I’d tunneled into shame so vast, that I could no longer see myself. I was walking, functioning, getting tasks done (barely), but I couldn’t have been further from living.

I didn’t want to meet my own exhausted eyes.

I didn’t realize it then, but I had spent a long time believing a misconstrued version of the Gospel; and when that version shattered, a large part of me broke with it. I had spent a long time believing in a false version of Jesus. A Jesus that I’d fashioned to look a lot like me. One who loved me for what I could do.

And as long as I was doing it all, it was fine. When I could no longer do what I deemed expected of me, I assumed Jesus was more critical of me than my self-criticism.

And that is how the peanut butter spent an unknowable amount of time in my hair.

Here’s why I’m bringing this up. There’s a chance you’ve got some peanut butter in your hair.

Maybe it’s there solely because you’re a messy eater. I hear ya.

Maybe it’s there because you have a toddler, and that’s reason enough. Good luck.

But maybe, it’s there because, lately, you’re having a hard time looking in the mirror.

It’s my dearest, deepest hope that no one is ever in any paralyzing trap. Comparison, envy, shame, bitterness or otherwise.

But it happens.

And just in case your barista doesn’t point it out for you, let me say this: Please, please, oh please, lift your eyes.

You might, in fact, find some peanut butter in your tangle of curls. No matter. What’s important is that you fight to see Jesus instead of gawking at your failures.

Even if you don’t yet believe it, He loves you. More than that, He loves you WELL. He wants you, and He wants you to come to Him even when you’re cringing with shame. Sick with guilt. Nauseous with furious doubt and unfathomable regret. But you have to lift your eyes. Otherwise, you don’t have a chance of believing any of it.  

And after you’ve done that, make sure to get that peanut butter out of your hair.