MashaunI have always wondered, “If and when I had the chance to do one of these blog posts, what would I talk about exactly?” It may sound somewhat arrogant, but since I arrived at Candler I expected that at some point I would be writing for the Enthused Admissions blog. I just sort of expected it. And don’t get me wrong; I am not saying I sought out this opportunity – not at all. However, I just figured the time would come and when it did, what would I have to say. (Maybe I should shut up now and change the subject).

Anyway, so here we are. And, ummm, what am I going to say? There is so much I could talk about: the fact that it is half way through my next to last semester at Candler; or the fact that it is only early November but feels like it should be mid-April/May; or the experiences of being student body president of a Theology school, at this time, during an election year.

But then I think back to where I am right now in my life and what stands out to me is the importance of freedom. On September 22, 2012 I cut off eight years worth of hair. Yes, you read right. For the past eight years I had been growing my hair in locs. I had the idea many years ago while in undergrad; struggled with whether or not I should do, and how it would make me look; and then grew them out. In all, I have had locs for 10 years – growing them once, cutting and starting over a year later.

They were my claim to fame – my crowning glory (no pun intended). They – my hair – had become a part of me. They were part of my identity, and I had invested a lot of energy, time and money into my hairstyle.

Every month I would get them washed and retwisted. During special occasions in my life, or when I just felt like it, I would have them colored and styled in all sorts of designs on the top of my head. They had become my art piece, my form of expressing whom I thought I was. They had become my centerpiece. And then earlier this year, during the summer, I had this idea – maybe I would cut my hair.

No, no, no. Now wait a minute, Mashaun. What are you talking about? Your hair is your hair. You cannot cut it, is what I had told myself several times. And I was not alone. So many people, when I would tell them I was thinking of cutting my hair, would object as if the hair was theirs.

And then in early September, I was ready. I made up my mind, made the appointment and prepared myself for the experience of no longer having a head full of hair. That early afternoon I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the hair off myself, one-loc-by-one. Much to my surprise, I did not have the emotional moment many people hard warned me about. I did not get emotional. I did not lose my strength like Samson when Delilah cut his hair.

Now, you may be wondering what does any of this have to do with Candler, theology and the past few years of being here in this space. Well, I am glad you asked. I think being here at Candler has prepared me for this moment in my life. I think my being here at Candler has provided me with not just this academic knowledge, practical ministerial skills, and a network of colleagues and lifelong ministerial friends. This experience has brought me closer to the man God created me to be.  This experience has provided me with a level of freedom I did not expect to have.

I came into Candler kicking and screaming with God. I know what happens in my community – the African American community – to people who become minsters, preachers and spiritual leaders. They are expected to be perfect. They are expected to have all of the answers. They are – well everything is expected of them. And I, if we are being honest, have never been excited about that reality.

However, in this time here at Candler my humanity has been validated, while at the same time my divine right has been affirmed. In this process, I have come closer to God’s Mashaun. I have the clarity and the vision now of who I am called to be, where I am to go into the world, and all of the abilities/gifts/skills I possess that can and will be used by God in God’s kingdom.

Candler freed me. Candler freed me so much so that I no longer needed to hide behind eight years of hair.

It all makes perfect sense now…at least to me!