This post is part of an ongoing series where I try to find hidden sermon illustrations lurking underneath everyday life. . .and fail miserably.
It isn’t easy being in my 30s. I know I can’t complain considering some people I know are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and they don’t make any of that look fun. But I still want to complain because somewhere over the course of the last 4 years I emerged kicking and screaming from my prolonged adolescence, an adolescence I am told lasted about ten years longer than it should have. Suddenly I live in a world of meticulous financial planning, poopy diapers, potty training, poopy underwear, desperate and constant house cleaning, meal preparation, lawn care, screaming children and that horrible “R” word: Responsibility.
There is a certain imprisonment to it all, a frustrating lack of liberty that drives me insane most days. So at the end of October in a desperate attempt to reclaim some semblance of adolescent freedom I decided to grow a beard. Yes, things had gotten so bad that growing a protest beard seemed reasonable.
Actually, it didn’t seem reasonable. The last time I tried to grow facial hair was over a decade ago and it didn’t go well. So I didn’t really decide to grow a beard as much as I decided to not shave for a week and see what might happen. I told absolutely no one what I was doing. I would let grow what may, being certain that after a week of neglecting my razor, I would look in the mirror and be totally disgusted by the prickly face looking back.
But something surprising happened. Right around November 7th, a week into my suburban rebellion, I looked in the mirror and wasn’t totally repulsed, just mostly repulsed. But I wasn’t disgusted enough to shave quite yet. I committed to another week.
Right around November 14th I looked in the mirror and actually kind of liked what I saw. There was actually something worth keeping there. To my complete surprise, this was working!
Now before you start accusing me of subjective self analysis, many other people agreed. Suddenly people were commenting on it and telling me they liked me with a beard. The beard made me look “skinnier,” “taller,” and “more mature.” One person even compared me to Abraham Lincoln, which is an excellent costume idea for next Halloween.
They weren’t just trying to flatter me either. I know this because for some reason my appearance and personality have never drawn flattering compliments. They have always done the opposite, which is stir up “helpful but constant criticism.”
This was a new me and apparently a more likable me. With no effort at all, in fact by being lazier, I had accomplished a more mature looking, respectable, presidential self.
My 2 and 4 year old loved it too. One night as I tucked my daughter into bed, she looked up at me and said, “I like your beard. Do you like your beard?”
“Why yes, I do,” I answered.
“That’s good because it’s awesome!” My 2 year old son gave equal sentiments.
There was one minor problem though. My wife apparently hates beards. Granted I knew she disapproved of facial hair long before November but I reasoned she just didn’t like my puberty facial hair. Certainly if I liked how it looked than she would come around. And if others were raining down compliments, she would certainly fold. Still, when I set the razor down on November 1st I made a vow to not let my beard be a catalyst for marriage failure.
My wife made no such vow and did not share the sentiment. She made it clear in no uncertain terms that she wanted it gone and that right soon.
But I had successfully grown it out through most of November and could not shave early, especially since No-Shave-November is apparently “Prostate Awareness November.” My handsome beard and presidential look were reminding men to get their prostate’s checked. I was doing a public service and it would certainly let all men down if I quit early. By shaving I could very easily be the reason someone’s prostate killed them.
So despite my wife’s protests I held out until the 2nd of December. After an afternoon run and a warm shower I stared in the mirror and suddenly ran into a very unique problem, how to get rid of a beard without an electric razor. I couldn’t just sink $40 into one that I would only use once. I live off of a pastor’s salary after all. Instead I had to resort to a blade on a stick, or rather three of them. It took a half hour, a painful and exhausting one.
What began as a desperate 30 something’s rebellion against the suburban machine, ended somewhat sadly as I watched my grow-before-beard disappear hair by hair into the confines of a sink drain. I know how it felt. I was also disappearing back into the confines of suburban drudgery. But it’s not so bad down here. After all, there has to be a sermon in here somewhere.