I am actually surprised it has taken me this long to write about mullets. A couple weeks back, I came across a delightful, biting bracket that pokes fun at the quirkiness of modern Christendom. In the spirit of “March Madness”, influential personalities or images are pitted against one another in a series of single round eliminations in an online vote. One of these iconic images, which won my automatic vote was Joel Osteen’s mullet. Anyway it got me reflecting, which apparently doesn’t take much.

At the height of the mullet’s reign, I was young enough not to care, yet old enough to call the shots. I was both a proponent and a participant. Mullets are the “best of both worlds” when it comes to style. It was particularly helpful for those who struggled with commitment. In it’s truest and finest form, the mullet comprises two important features. First, the hair on the top and sides is not much longer than a brush cut. Second, it is then tapered into a full and flowing mane at the back. The most perfect definition is of course the succinct:

“Business in the front, party in the back”.

I did not have one of these classic mullets that today incites merciless scorn. No, mine was more like Joel’s, adorned with a comforting and slightly wavy coif. I had it for many years, and remember so well the day it was gone. The reason was not for fashion, nor compliance with the changing times. Pragmatism led to such drastic measures. It happened to be a very hot and sticky day in August, and I was helping a friend from our church move. My head can cook in the sun and I am susceptible to heat stroke. By the time I crawled into my car, I was a bit delirious. But I did not go straight home. Instead, my car pulled into the parking lot at the mall. Somehow I stumbled into the hair stylist’s chair, and uttered something that sounded like, “Cut it offff!” And she did.

Upon reflection, I suspect some virtue left me that day. To suggest that was the day “the party died” might be a bit strong. But in some ways, it feels like life has been all business since then. The transition to responsible and bland adulthood was made complete when I left that salon. I never fully considered the consequences of that decision. In a very small way I can empathize with how Sampson may have felt as he sat there in the dark, cold dungeon after his haircut. Blind and weak, wondering what just happened. Reduced to pushing the grinding wheel, round and round; repeat.

Life can feel like that if we let it. But it isn’t just one moment that does it. Stuff just piles on over many moments, year after year. Was it the moment Sampson lost his hair that rendered him so helpless, or rather the consequence of a series of momentary compromises? I think the former is symbolic of the latter. The moment Sampson’s mullet-worthy braids were sheared, his commitment to God had already been broken. The party was over.

It is a sad scene really, perhaps one that we can identify with in some way. But fortunately it doesn’t end there. And I don’t mean the celebrated picture of him pushing the pillars apart, bringing down the roof over thousands of people. That is actually more tragic. No, my favourite part is this…

“But before long, his hair began to grow back.” Judges 16:22

We are never stuck in a moment we can’t get out of. This is God’s subtle way of saying it is never too late; that our situation is redeemable and that He never gives up on us. The dungeon is not a fun place to be, but it can offer wonderful perspective. We can be blind, bald and in prison, or maybe just responsible and bland, sporting a contemporary haircut. In either case, or somewhere in between, we are blessed with the same opportunity.

The silent inference in this verse is that Sampson’s commitment to God grew back as well. Life can’t just be a party, but it doesn’t have to be all business either. If we respond to His grace, live life Jesus’ way and let our hair down once in a while, it may just get fun again. Even though my mullet is gone (for good), it does not mean there can’t be a party in the back, metaphorically speaking of course! I think I need to put away my shears and just let it grow again.

(To see who eventually won the 2013 “American Jesus” bracket, check out the blog here.)