Wide Awake

The iron has entered my hair.

For a while I told people—too many people—that I was “embracing the gray,” but the mirror doesn’t display enough real silver to do that statement justice. Yet.

“Personal tinsel?” suggested a friend over the holidays as she showed off her white stripes. Stripes are cool. But I haven’t got any. My blond just . . . dulled.

So I’m going with “iron.” All the way. Silver is frivolous. Iron sounds more like the broadsword mounted above my door.

Let’s ditch “cute” theologian and start looking the part. Though I don’t suppose writing at the intersection of faith and fantasy fiction is going to help.

“What would you think if I dyed my hair white?” I asked my husband.

“White like old?” he yelped, dropping his New Yorker and sitting up.

Falling Hard

At least twice a week, I watch Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake (released Jan 2012) music video at the gym. (Gym TV is my source of all things pop culture.) In it the artist’s hair gleams a beautiful shade of purple. I considered trying purple myself, but I thought white might serve my purposes better, both from a theology and a fantasy standpoint.

The dark labyrinth that Perry walks in the video represents her “valley of the shadow of death.” The fantasy-inspired story that unfolds behind her song references Greek mythology, 80s horror, Bible quotes, and a couple of Disney clichés.

Perry’s inner strength prevents the walls from collapsing on her, but it’s not enough to prevent her from eating a poisonous fruit. The little girl inside her, her true self, opens a wall to lead her into the light. “I’m wide awake,” she sings again.

Not losing any sleep
I picked up every piece
And landed on my feet
I’m wide awake
Need nothing to complete myself, no
I’m wide awake
Yeah, I am born again
Out of the lion’s den
I don’t have to pretend

What I Know Now

Poisoned fruit, valley of the shadow, born again, lion’s den: these are all biblical references. They summarize the Bible’s big story: Humankind sins and is cast out of God’s presence (Gen 2:17; 3:22). Humans cling to God’s guidance even in the midst of death (Ps 23:4). Jesus summons humankind to be reborn of God’s presence (John 3:5–8). Humans escapes the lions of death because of God’s providence and so God is glorified among those who do not yet know him (Dan 6:20–23). We are granted Kingdom life.

Kingdom life is reconciliation between humans and God, but he is also reconciling humans to one another and to themselves. Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” and the fantasy story behind her lyrics nicely illustrate the power of reconciliation with self.

Fourth-century church father St. Augustine would say that without God’s intervention in Christ, we are not able to attain self-reconciliation any more than Perry was able to avoid the poisoned strawberry. Yet her biblical references suggest she is aware of the need for something beyond freedom and courage to exert one’s inner strength.

How Christ’s redeeming power is applied to my redemption of self is not always clear. However, I’d venture to say it has less to do with purple dye (or white) and more to do with my God-given iron.


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