First Christian Reformed Church

Nobody Cares

For the last few weeks I have been fascinated with my face. More so than usual. Whenever I get the chance I’ll gaze on my own reflection, intrigued, confused and sometimes mesmerized. I’m growing a beard.

Facial hair has never really been part of my story. Growing up I had a distant, twice removed uncle with a conservative beard and that was about it. My dad never grew one, or could not, and my older brothers preferred the clean look as well. The thought of growing one myself rarely occurred to me.

Then a few weeks ago Greg, our Student Director, challenged me to participate in what is commonly known as “No-Shave November”. Some say it is done in support of men’s health, others for the sake of the light hearted challenge. I said yes because I simply cave under the pressure of my peers. Now three weeks later I sit here with this hairy thing on my face and I can’t stop looking at it and evidently can’t stop talking about either.

Humor me and let me give you a brief glimpse of my journey into “beardom”. In the first 4 days or so I found myself in familiar territory. Nothing new here. But then, at the end of the first week, things started to change. Besides a debilitating itch, something felt different. Whenever I would look into the mirror, or really anything that would reflect (you’d be surprised how many surfaces can reflect your image) I had the sense that more than just my face was changing; I was changing. I wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe I was finally becoming a man; or perhaps it was an act of rebellion staving off early signs of a mid-life crisis. No matter what it was, it was changing me.

Not according to my wife Bethany however. Without tip-toeing around the awkward truth she told me to get over it. Nobody else cared about my beard and it was really time for me to move on with life. It was just a beard. I needed to hear these kind words. They showed me something deeper was at play here.

For years I have been warning students about the dangers of image management; the controlling and manipulation of one’s impression on others. We do this to hide our brokenness, flaws and dysfunction, fearing that if people see the real us, they may not want anything to do with us. We want to come across funnier, more caring, more put together or maybe even more righteous than we really are. We simply don’t like people thinking poorly of us and we’ll go to great lengths to manage the perception. The beard has changed my appearance. It looks scruffy, itchy and ingrown and does not fit with the Paul I want people to see. The fascination and frustration I have experienced with this whole beard thing simply stems from me not being able to manage my image as usual.

I have been a Christian for 13 years and love Jesus more than anything. Yet too often my faith in Him gets “in the way” like a 3 week old beard. I worry about what people will think of me; the impressions I leave. On countless occasions I have not shared the gospel truth with people who were practically asking for it. Many times I have acted “cooler” around students than I really am. Too often I contain my heart and passion and don’t raise my hands in worship to God for fear of what people think. The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is nobody pays all that much attention or really cares. I know God doesn’t care about how I look. I believe He is more interested in my heart and devotion, even if that looks awkward or scruffy. God is after my heart, not my face.

Paul Blackmon

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