Monday, November 21, 2016

A Bet, Beard, and Beautiful Thing

I made a gentleman's bet yesterday with an elderly man from our church. Steve has eclipsed seventy years. He is a mainstay in our spiritual family. He knows our history because he's lived most of it. He knows our facilities because he's maintained almost every corner. A wellspring of stories, tireless servant, and icon of conservative values, Steve is a good man to have on your side.

Bell and pulpit from Leesburg Grace on Vimeo.

But this week Steve is my rival. He approached me on Sunday and remarked on my "beard." (Yes, this deserves quotes. Every November I join the cause for two weeks before abandoning it. I can't stand the itchy face, patchy hair, and public shame. Case and point, my daughter asked her teach to turn me down as a volunteer this week because I'm "trying to grow a beard it looks bad.")

"I was thinking about your beard," Steve said. "I thought I'd wait until the last week of November and see if I could get a thicker beard than you by month's end."

"You're making a gentleman's bet, Steve?" I asked, extending my hand.

"I guess I am. I won't shave until after next Sunday's service. And I did shave this morning, so it's clean."

"I actually stopped shaving the last week of October," I confessed. "I needed a greater head start."
Steve proceeded to tell me about the good old days of dark hair and long beards. His smirk betrayed a personal history of minor rebellions. Many summers ago, after mowing and sweating and picking gnats from his scruff, he decided to shave. But the sight of my facial hair surfaced in him a longing.

"What's the prize?" I asked. There was some talk of Steve's Camero, but we sealed our bet in a church building, so we decided to keep matters friendly: bragging rights and humble pie.

Truth be told, I felt flattered Steve even acknowledged my beard with a contest. I felt honored my unshaven face inspired his nostalgia and competitive spirit. As he reaches back for the good old days, and I look ahead toward middle age, Steve and I meet in the center.

On Sunday we will call on the congregation to cast its votes. (I will ask them to restrain their laughter.) And together we will let them know, in some curious way, they are witnessing a beautiful picture of the body of Christ -- younger men and older men stirring one another on to love and good beards.

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