For many years I have been an avid wearer of facial hair. I’ve been blessed with the ability to grow a short beard in two weeks, a full well groomed beard in a month. With this ability I have explored and tried out various styles of facial hair, from curled handle bars to “friendly mutton chops”, light stubble to a six inch epic beard. These exciting variations led others to refer to me, if they did not recall my name, as “that bearded guy”, “the bearded one”, and ” . . . you know, the one with the great beard.”
I was known for it, known by it. Having a beard evolved, almost unknowingly, into part of who I was. When I had shaved in the past I experienced awkward looks and smirks from my wife; mistrust and fear from my children; and confusion mixed with un-recognition from friends and co-workers. I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Having a beard was part of my identity, to the point that a shaved face never lasted more than a day.
Now, there are times in our lives when we experience such a significant shift in our lifestyles that it feels, mostly to ourselves, that a bit of our identity shifts with it. Graduating from high school, serving as a missionary, getting married, becoming a father, are some of the shifts that have occurred in my life where I have noticed that I am not quite the same person I was before. This change is never really a negative one, and in some instances a very welcome change. But there is a definite shift, and often there is an odd period of adjustment that takes place while settling in to the “new you.” A sort of reconciliation of sorts. Where you come to realize that the real you is still you, though things have changed.
I have yet again experienced another one of those significant shifts in a very unexpected way. As part of a change in life circumstances, one word said to me seemed to resonate and reverberate within my mind.
I had been asked to shave. And though I was willing to go ahead with it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow losing a part of who I was. A beard had become more than just facial hair to me. I would now be cutting off part of my identity. Who I was would come to an end, and the reconciliation of a new identity begins again.