Wednesday 8/10/2016 7:08 AM
I have had a beard for most of my adult life. I keep it well trimmed and sometimes have a goatee, but they are always short beards. I am in the process of growing out my beard to honor a friend and former student who recently lost a long battle with cancer. He had cancer in his mouth at one point and his face had been scarred by surgery so he grew a long beard to hide it. I always told him I was envious of his long beard and suggested that someday I was going to grow mine out so I could be like him. I wish the circumstances were different but now is the time.
A few weeks ago I was a guest at a Young Lives camp in Lake City, Michigan. Young Lives is a ministry to teen moms directed by a good friend, who had invited Jaci and I to come. Like every youth camp they have activities for the moms to do during their free time including a zip line, a go cart track, a high ropes course, swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and so on. One afternoon we went on the high ropes course with some of the campers and their leaders. We put on the required harness and helmet before we began. My helmet was red. Most of the course entailed walking along a cable suspended twenty feet above the ground and ended with a jump off of a platform while someone below belayed you to the ground. At the bottom those who finished were congratulated by others who had completed the course themselves or were simply observing and providing encouragement to those attempting to complete the course. When I finished I received their congratulations and then someone told me that, when I was on the course, those below were referring to me as the skinny Santa Claus. It seems that in growing my beard longer I am taking on the likeness of Santa Claus.
I thought of Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” The Bible says that all people are made in the image of God. I believe that all people have dignity and worth simply because they carry the image of God. I also recognize that all people do not reflect that image accurately. The God of the Bible is revealed as a God of love but it is obvious that love is not evidenced in all the interactions of people with one another or with their environment.
I recently read an excerpt from the book Climbing the Sycamore Tree, by Ann Hagmann, in which she recounts the story of two men who were rushing to catch a subway on Christmas Eve. As he turned a corner while running across the platform, the first man bumped into a young, disabled man selling newspapers, strewing the newspapers and the boy’s other belongings everywhere. The man cursed at the boy for delaying him and ran on to catch his train. The second man stopped, helped the boy pick up the papers, and bought one. He gave the boy five dollars, told him to keep the change, and wished him a Merry Christmas. As he left to catch his train the boy called after him, asking if he was Jesus Christ. Embarrassed, the second man said, “No, but I try to be like him.” Hagmann writes, “Both men are made in the image of God, but only one man is living in the likeness of Jesus Christ. It is not enough as a Christian to claim being made in our Creator’s image; we are called to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.”
While always having a beard, it is in growing it that I am conforming to the likeness of Santa Claus. How much more important for me, and other Christians, while being made in the image of God, to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Then the people of the world will see the unadulterated image of God, the likeness of Christ.