A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going to Sooner Youth Camp on staff as a Bible class teacher. This has become an annual blessing for me. I figured out that this year was my seventh time to be on staff in the last nine years. I have developed some really good friendships with the rest of the staff. They are some of the best people I know. If I can make it to camp, I’m going to camp.
Camp is one of the few times throughout the year that I am away from my family. And this year I decided to take advantage of it. I have never attempted to grow any facial hair since I started dating Amy. For one reason, many of those years I couldn’t grow facial hair. But for the last few years it has mainly been because Amy likes my clean-shaven face. So being away for the week was the perfect opportunity to start growing a beard, and who knows, maybe if I can get past the scratchy, scraggly stage Amy will realize she actually likes it.
So I have a great week of camp and come home with a beard. It is great to be back together as a family, but it is clear that Amy is not a big fan of the beard. Everyone else seems to like it, but not her. And just to be clear, she is actually really sweet about it. She doesn’t nag me or try to talk me into shaving or anything, but after living with someone for nine years, you can usually tell when they don’t really love something. And she doesn’t really love it.
Meanwhile, I start reading a fantastic book by Donald Miller called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I would highly recommend it. Miller writes about his experience of learning to write a good story for a movie and how that has helped him learn to live a good story with his life. It was really inspirational to me.
So I am in the middle of reading this book about a week or week and a half after I have gotten home from camp. I take some time one day to pray and listen to God. As I am taking some quiet time to try and listen to God, I sense him telling me to shave my beard. One of the things that I try to do when I sense God telling me to do some is to actually do it, especially if it seems relatively easy. And this seemed pretty easy, so I went to the bathroom and shaved off the beard.
So why would God want me to shave my beard? I think it actually has a lot to do with living a better story. In Miller’s book, he talks about one of the Rocky movies and reminds us several of the things Rocky does at the beginning of the movie that nobody ever remembers. Stuff like helping a disadvantaged kid, or changing a light bulb for some lady, or telling stories of his past fights to some of his fans. Nobody really remembers those parts, but they are important to the story because if he doesn’t do those things, nobody cares if he actually wins the fight at the end of the movie.
The small things we do that put others first are the things that help make our story a better story, a story worth living. I think my story got better when I shaved my beard. Not because having a beard or not really matters, but because my relationship with my wife actually does. I doubt that my marriage would have fallen apart if I kept the beard, but the beard was a selfish indulgence. Shaving the beard was putting my wife first and the more we put others first, the better our story gets.
Maybe nobody will remember the 2 weeks of me having a beard, but maybe this is one of those things that helps whatever audience is out there to care about the rest of my story. Thank God for helping me live a better story.