Lessons from my Attack: The Church & False Advertising Part II

After my shower I sat down on the couch and rubbed my newly trimmed face as I laughed about what had just happened. (Oh, if you didn’t read the beard story, you should probably do that now. Consider this the scene at the beginning of the second movie where you flashback in order to understand the back story. I know, part I is kind of long and rambling, but it may help part II make more sense….maybe).

That experience reminded me of a comedian who once had a bit about the names we give to neighborhoods, and how those names have nothing to do with the place where we live. So you live in the “Pheasant Hills” neighborhood where there are neither pheasants nor hills. Or you rent an apartment at “Willow Run”, where there are no willows for miles.

Sometimes the church does this with the names we come up with. I cannot explain it any better than Jon Acuff does on his site, “Stuff Christians Like”. (Take a look, I’ll wait). We call ourselves “Life Church” though we are the deadest place in town. We use terms like “Grace”  but we only offer it to ourselves, or “Community” when we have no intention of sharing life, real life, with the people who attend there. Our church signs and local paper advertisements speak of our place of worship as “a loving place” when it’s members are feuding and gossiping; we declare, “all are welcome” but if certain parts of the “all” would ever come and visit, they would quickly learn they were not part of the “all” the sign meant….you get the idea.

Day after day in a million different ways, through our signs, logos, bulletins, and vision statements, we make claims about who we are — we put certain things on the menu, but when push comes to shove, we are not ready for the person who enters the building and actually asks for it.  We fumble, make excuses, defer, and then we say, “well, I think we’re done here, what do you think?” And like a beard trim gone bad at Great Clips, the person just wants out, realizing very quickly that we use words like grace, and faith, and hope and love and community, and a hundred other “church words”, but we have no idea what to do with them.

But church criticism is easy. What about me? What about you? Am I experiencing and walking in any of the things that I talk about? The things I put up on the menu board? Grace, hope, love, faith, hospitality (love of stranger), joy, peace, patience….power….Jesus. Ultimately, most people will not be repulsed by a cliché church name, but they will be by another cliché disciple who knows the way to live, the cost to live, but still refuses to live it. The church is people. People who have surrendered their all to the Lordship of Jesus….right?

So what do we do? Where do we go from here?

That’s tomorrow’s post…..baaaaa duuuuummmmmmmmmmm

PS. Minutes after I posted yesterdays thoughts, I received a very nice tweet from Great Clips looking in to my experience. You see they are good people, and I just want them to know if they (or their lawyers) are reading this, that I will still continue to visit their
establishment for a great haircut at a comfortable price.   And if anyone wanted to find them they could go to www.greatclips.com and set up an appointment online today….I think that’s all I agreed to say. I know one thing, I am not going to mention the hack job with the beard and the clippers….unless there are some free haircuts involved….eh?….Great Clips?….happy customer is a return customer?…Talk it over and get back to me.

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Attacked at Great Clips: The Church and False Advertising Part I

First a story about growing a beard (nothing like a good beard story to suck you in)

Each year I grow a beard….it gets pretty big.  

I wish I could say the beard was some kind of statement, or my attempt to survive the cruel Virginia winter, or even regular prep for any opportunity to play a devious biblical character. But I’m pretty sure my reasons for growing a big beard have more to do with laziness, novelty, and….ok maybe the opportunity to play a devious biblical character.

When I get a haircut.  I go to Great Clips.

It’s perfect for what I need. I feel like the fancier places have too many unspoken rules I don’t know about – it’s like being a part of a secret society.  Plus my hair cutting needs can be easily addressed with clippers and a #4 guard.

Around Christmas time, I decided to get a hair cut.  So I went to my closest shopping center, walked in, sat in the waiting room, and studied the shampoos on the shelf. I then looked at the menu board they have hanging over the register.  As I look over the options and prices on the menu, I notice something that catches my eye, “beard trim”. I never knew that was an option, I’ve never had my beard trimmed by someone else….but suddenly, I was interested.

In a few minutes, an older gentlemen called my name. I walked back to the chair and sat down. I am very uncomfortable in a hair-cutting situation. I can stand up and speak in front of hundreds of people, but I dread sitting in that chair for the 12 minutes it takes to get a haircut. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but to me it is awkward and extremely uncomfortable. Maybe if I were there every week for a wash and perm it would be different.  All I know is that by the time he tapes my neck off with that white paper and straps the cape on me, I have exhausted most of the small talk I was preparing while I waited to be called back.

So out of desperation, I throw out a question, “so….I see on the menu you guys do beard trims?” “Yes,…are you thinking of getting your beard trimmed?” He asked as he stared at my beard, trying to decide if his clippers were up to the task. “Oh I don’t know” I replied….and then silence.  He finished my hair and then asked, “so, do you want us to trim that beard for you?” “that beard” implied it was some kind of parasite that had attached itself to the bottom of my chin.  The thought of not having to clean up a bathroom full of fur was pretty appealing, so I said, “sure, why not, let’s go for it.” There was a slight hesitation from the man, as if I had called his bluff, and now he actually had to go through with it. He looked uncomfortable, and I can’t blame him, cutting this beard is like taking a push mower to a row of hedges. So he prepared his instruments on the table in front of me, and got to work.

That’s when I quickly learned the man who stood before me had never trimmed a beard in his life.

He began hacking away at my face, hair flying all around me. Several times he would try to go too deep too fast, and you could hear the clipper motor bog down, trapping the clippers in my beard for a moment. I started to laugh and fought to keep it internal, my shoulders shaking gently. The clippers moved to my upper lip. and as he swept upward, the teeth of the hair guard would catch my right nostril. Multiple times I could feel the guard go up inside my nose. I jerked back each time, but he remained silent….focused….clueless.

After cutting huge swaths in my beard, he then moved to the fine trimming, creating even, symmetrical lines with the stubble that remained on my face. Only I watched him as he trimmed too far down on one side. His choices were to either trim it off completely or just leave it and hope I enjoyed making a statement about beard conformity. He tried to lower the other side, but it wasn’t helping.  At a certain point, he just stopped, looked at me in the mirror and said, “well, I think we’re good here, what do you think?”

Now I should have pointed out that I could see several tuffs of hair that he missed all over my face, like some sort of mangy dog. I probably should have mentioned that the roller coaster outline he created on each side of my face was not the style these days.  And maybe I should have asked for a tissue to stop the internal bleeding in my nostril from his erratic trimming. But instead I looked in the mirror, smiled, and said, “yep, that will do.” I just wanted out. As I walked past the waiting room, I could feel the pity-filled stares of those who watched the entire ordeal.  I wanted to shout at them, ” I was once like you!!” “I am a man, I’m not an animal!”

I drove home, pulled in to the driveway, and walked inside. My wife was the first person I saw as I  came in the door. “Wow, you got your beard cut off!” “Yeah, but look at it” I said. She started to walk closer to me and then stopped short once she could see what I was referring to. She stared at me with compassion, in the same way that Esmeralda looked at Quasimodo. “Oh….what happened?” she reached to touch it but I pulled away. “I’ll be in the bathroom shaving” I said as I stormed out.

Isn’t it interesting that this company offered a service on a menu board that they were not prepared to provide to an actual customer?

Isn’t it strange that this worker thought he was providing a “good” beard trim when he was actually providing me several nights of flashbacks and night sweats.

Isn’t that exactly what the church is like sometimes?

I’ll explain what I mean….tomorrow (dum dum duuuuuummmmm)