Thursdays are normally my day off, and due the crazy week that it had been so far, I was particularly look forward to a little break from the grind. However, things did not go according to plan. Sick children, doctors appointments, and some urgent ministerial demands quickly made it another stressful day. By lunch time, I was ready to take a nap!
My toddler boys usually nap in mid-afternoon, which gives me time to relax or run a few errands. In this case, I decided to visit the local pizza shop as part of my weekly routine. I have come to know the owner quite well, and he has a habit of asking about my wife and kids. It doesn’t hurt that the pizza is quite good, too.
After a lonely, quiet lunch, I made spurious decision to get a haircut. I go to one of those places where you never know who will cut your hair or what kind of haircut you will get. I’ve been going there for sometime and have come to know many of the folks who work there, except that the turnover seems excessively high (which usually does not bode well of the business). I walked into a fairly empty joint. I looked forward to a quick and easy cut so I could get back to family duties back home. The lady got my name and number and told me it would be just a few minutes.
Fifteen minutes later she came back to the front, having forgotten she registered me already. I began to get frustrated by what appeared to be obvious customer service failure. I gave her my name and number, and to my disappointment, she said she would be cutting my hair. Not exactly how I was wanting things to go.
Sitting down in the chair, she asked how I wanted my hairs cut, even though she had a print out in her hand given specific details of the same haircut I have had for the past three years. I was thinking to myself, “It’s not that complicated ma’am. Can you just following the instructions and get on with it?” As she began, I refused to make eye contact or start a conversation. I was clearly not in a “chatty” mood. Bless her heart, every time she tried to make me more comfortable, the more awkward I felt, and the more I was wishing she would simply focus on what seemed to be a difficult job for her.
In the short span of time I sat in that chair, I sensed in my heart and mind horrible things. As she breathed heavily around me, I could tell she had recently smoked a cigarette, and I wasn’t too fond of the smell and thought of her shaky, nicotine-stained fingers rubbing my head. I began to judge her secretly. With the shoddy haircut and multiple corrections I asked her to make, I thought, “There’s no way I can tip her for what she’s done. She has taken too long, done too poor a job, and annoyed me in the process.” I just wanted to get out as quick as I could. Instead, she proceeded to ask about what I do, if I have a family, and so on. It was the haircut from hell.
I left that place Thursday afternoon convinced I would never go back there to get another haircut again.
Then I got rebuked by the Holy Spirit and have not been the same.
It was evident that my heart and mind was not right. I was quick to see the lady as the problem without realizing the problem lied deep within my sinning heart. Here was a woman who perhaps had a day much more difficult than mine. I never once gave thought to the plight of her financial situation. Here was a woman working hard to provide for herself and her family. And when I was clearly a jerk to her, she made extra effort to be nice and conversational when she could have treated me otherwise. I showed her no grace, and for that I am profoundly humiliated.
I had forgotten the gospel, so instead of seeking to show her the same mercy I found in Christ, I judged her instead. Instead of seeing her as a divine appointment to share the love of Christ, it became an opportunity to express my wrath. I did not see her as a sinner in need of Christ. I saw her has incompetent stylist in need of my correction. I was more concerned about getting a quality haircut than her hearing about the amazing grace of God. And I left that place with no representation of Christ but rather a display of my sinning, prideful heart.
I was wrong. So so wrong.
I have written much about evangelism here on my blog, and as a result of that, one might conclude that I just excel at it. The danger is only to write of the times when a person is saved, giving a false impression that it just happens naturally and regularly. Yet as I mentioned last week, evangelism is not easy for anyone. I write about it because I want to be so much better at making Christ known, and this week’s experience is evidence of how much farther I have to go.
As for the haircut, I should have been content to have cut it at ten different lengths if I but had the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with her. I should have been willing to wait an hour or longer if I would have thirty minutes to tell her how Jesus changed my life. I should have viewed her as someone with a soul and spending eternity in heaven or hell but instead I saw her in service of my own earthly kingdom. Instead of being like Jesus, I was a jerk, and apart from the sanctifying grace of God and ongoing transformation by His Spirit, I act as one ashamed of the gospel.
You see, this is why preaching the gospel to yourself is so important. On the one hand, the gospel liberates you from yourself. Remembering what God has done for you in Christ dominates your heart and mind so that you look to treat others the way God has treated you. The absence of the lively presence of the Gospel will invariably lead to deathly absence of mission. The gospel call is to seek first the kingdom of God, while the absence of the gospel’s work leads to a selfish, slavish rule of our kingdom come. The gospel was not in my lips because the love of Christ was not constraining my heart. Essential to living a life on mission is experiencing the functional centrality of the gospel in governing my heart, guiding my thoughts, and giving away my rights to the One who owns me.
But preaching the gospel to yourself is also important when you fail. I don’t have to hide from the sins in my heart, because I know that Jesus paid for them all. I don’t have to pretend I’m better than I am, because I know that the Father’s love for me is secure not in my performance, but the performance of Jesus. I blew it, and I can own it because Jesus owns me. I don’t have to feel defeated and give up on sharing the gospel with others because the gospel tells me I’m united with Christ in the power of His resurrection. And He is committed to perfecting the good work He began in me, including the specific work of growing in grace and repentance.
So here’s the deal. I told myself that day I would never go back there again. But that was my flesh talking. I didn’t want to go back because my pride didn’t want to have to see these people again after being such a jerk. My self-centeredness didn’t want to go back because I considered my experience was so frustrating. I am going to go back, not first to get my haircut but to apologize and repent for the way I acted. I am going to go back because that place has been a “fishing hole” for three years, and the devil would love to have me shut that door due to my pride and sin. I am going to go back because I want the ladies (and men) working there to know the same mercy and grace I have found as a sinner rescued by Jesus. I am going back because the same Spirit convicting me of my sin is the same Spirit empowering to live a life on mission.
Below is a note I’m giving the lady who cut my hair.
Last Thursday I came to get a haircut. I want to drop you a note to simply apologize and ask for your forgiveness for being such a jerk to you. There’s no excuse for the way I acted toward you, and I am deeply sorry for you being the object of my sinning heart. Although you knew my bitter disposition, you kindly made efforts to appease my frustration and took extra care to satisfy my desires. I know that I was not much of a conversationalist that day, but it was entirely due to pride and self-pity on my part.
Since I came home that day, God has convicted me greatly about the way I acted. I want nothing more to honor Him and share His love with others I meet in our community. I know that could not be detected that day, but I hope in future visits I will have the privilege of doing just that. Although I know myself to be a great sinner, I have found in Jesus a great Savior who has changed my life. I don’t know if you have ever discovered the grace of Jesus Christ, and if not, I would be honored to have a few minutes of your time to share with you the greatest news I have ever heard.
Please know how grateful I am that you took the time to cut my hair and treat me with such kindness. I hope to come back soon to see you again.
P.S. – About that dream of yours to help elderly men and women in nursing homes get free haircuts, I would love to help any way I can. It sounds like a wonderful act of benevolence that would serve our community well and meet the practical needs of many. My 92 -year-old grandmother recently passed away, and one thing she kept doing until the day she died was getting her hair done!
If you think of it, pray that I will have the opportunity to speak of Jesus there, especially to this dear lady. Where sin abounded in my heart, I pray the grace of God will abound all the more.