Lenten Journal, Day 8

Today, I shaved.

Now, most of the time, that’s not big deal. Men shave every day so one’s reaction to a 67-year-old man saying “I shaved” probably should be “So what?” However, the past several weeks trimming my beard and shaving have not been a regular part of my life.

As I have recovered from total knee arthroplasty, which is to say the replacement of parts of my left knee with bits and pieces of titanium and plastic, standing at the bathroom sink either long enough or steadily enough to use a sharp and pointy pair of scissors to trim my beard and a razor to shave my neck has simply not been possible. But after two months of recovery including several coached sessions of physical therapy and daily workouts on my own, today was the day to take the time to do both of those things … and not just that, but also to drive to my neighborhood barber and have my head shaved with a straight razor! I’ve not been this “cleaned up” since Christmas!

While trimming my beard, I thought of a Facebook meme I saw a couple of years ago. It was a picture of young man with a beard much lusher than any I have ever been able to grow. It was captioned, “He who trims his beard says to God that God has made a mistake.” It seemed funny at the time, but as I trimmed my beard this morning I thought the meme in error. I think trimming one’s beard is a small part of taking responsibility for the world God has given us.

Beard trimming is an element of self-care. It may not be an element everyone needs to do: some may not have beards at all and some may have full beards best left to grow. To trim or not to trim is a personal decision, but taking care of self is more than that; taking care of self is a responsibility, one Jesus modeled. Jesus was often pressed by the crowds to heal the many sick who came to him, something I’m sure was exhausting. Luke tells us that “he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.”[1] He taught us to love others as we love ourselves;[2] love of self implies care of self.

Care of self is also part of the stewardship of creation. Judaism teaches the concept of tikkun olam, the idea that we humans are responsible for fixing what is wrong with the world. Taking care of one’s self, it seems to me, is the first step in doing that. And that’s one of the things Lent is about, taking that first step, which begins with an acknowledgement that there is something wrong, that I need to be cared for, that I need to be fixed, and that the first person who can do that is me.


Click on footnote numbers to link back to associated text.

[1] Luke 5:16

[2] Matthew 22:39