Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Not By the Hair of My Chinny-Chin-Chin"

Lest you think I've been influenced by "Duck Dynasty" and the Boston Red Sox, I'll set the record straight right here at the onset. My chin disappeared in the summer of 1988 and hasn't been seen since. Personally, I'd like to keep it that way.

I never was that impressed with my chin anyway. It sort of slopes off to the south in a wimpish sort of way, so I was more than happy to get it out of sight.

That reminds me of long-faced Harrisonburg native Ray Shank. He was a born and bred Southeasterner before he married a second cousin of mine from Aroda and defected to the Beachy church in that area. I met him some time after he got married and he had grown a very nice beard in the meantime. I complimented him on it and he grinned, "I guess anything would be an improvement!", he said.

I'm not sure when I first started having a hankering for a beard. I remember having a talk at church soon after we were married and saying that I may look like something different on the surface, but in my heart I'm a bearded Alaskan.

A few years before my beard started to grow. I have a feeling that I would have matured much sooner but I was stunted by that top button choking the life out of me.

  If you had spent as many years scrawny as I had, you might understand why I wanted a beard. To me it seemed part of what it meant to finally be a man.

 But in our setting, it wasn't just real easy to get it accomplished. You have to remember, we hadn't long come out of those terrible Sixties, and the Seventies weren't much better with the long haired, bearded Hippies having their heyday.
Newly married, 1977. Man, were we ever skinny!
But the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me. (ha, that's sort of how it happens with beards) I began to talk about the possibility, but it wasn't received overly well. There were several beards in our church at the time, but these were men that had come from Beachy background and had beards when they came. And supposedly had "Convictions". For one of us young guys to grow a beard, well, we were probably following that rebellious hippie movement.
Still no beard; probably about 1986.
Finally the ministry decided to have a meeting where this would be discussed. And our bishop, Leon, told me I could talk and explain why I wanted to have a beard. You better believe I did my homework.

The time came for the meeting. I got up and said that it would be nice to have a clear verse to quote to support my position. The nearest thing I could find, I said, was where it says that whatsoever God has joined together let not man put asunder. Later when Leon got up to close he said that there is also a verse that talks about wood, hay, and stubble. (why is it that you always remember the humor and not the main points?)

Mary claims to this day that I talked for almost an hour. I still don't believe it. I do know I said I felt frustrated because I might be the first man in my family line since Adam to NOT have a beard. (my forebears were Amish) I don't really remember what else. I do remember that dear old worry-wart Noami Zehr, who not everyone got along with but I always did,  said that she worried about getting them caught in the PTO. (FYI we had cool abbreviations way back then; PTO stands for power take off; the shaft that runs from the tractor to a machine)

My talk must have been somewhat convincing, because after the service my cousin Howard came to me and said, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

To make a long story short, the ok was given that you could have a beard. Without a mustache, that is. I was convinced at the time, but churchwise it took us several more years to realize that God had probably created those upper lip hairs at the same time as the lower ones and that they were part of what made up a "beard".
No mustache.
So should a man need a "conviction" to have a beard? I say humbug. Do you have a conviction for eyebrows and toenails? A beard grows naturally, just the same as they do. I feel quite comfortable with the verses in Genesis that say how God created mankind male and female (with their differences) and when He was all finished He said it was all "very good".  And I feel like if it was good enough for God, it was good enough for me. In any case, if there is a conviction needed, the burden of conviction should be on the one that shaves.

Now, I get along fine with my brothers in the church that don't have beards, although it is completely beyond me how they can stand to keep scraping (or buzzing) away at their chins week after week  and going around with cheeks almost as smooth as a woman. Especially with winter coming on. But it's up to them.
A year ago at Thanksgiving; me and the coon seem to be graying at about the same rate.

For me, if my chin ever comes into public view again you can be assured that I have either lost my mind or somebody stronger is shaving me against my will.

Maybe you're trying to decide if a beard might be God's will for you. Here's a test. Go to the woods for a week of fasting and prayer. Or take plenty of food along. Not to minimize prayer and fasting, but the week is what's important here.

 Then come home and look in the mirror. You just might get your first clue.


  1. Hi Merle,
    Good to read your post, makes me wish to see you again. I remember your talk, also Leon's twinkly-eyed response. I'm not sure, but would have said you talked about 20 min. I remember you telling of a man who gave your father some references in favor of the beard; he listed the reference where Sampson "slew the lion by the beard." Your point was it is better to be careful about proof-texting!
    Glad to find your page and read your post.
    God bless you,

  2. I'm some random guy that came across your blog in my search of contact info for a singing group from Floyd, VA consisting of Myron and Heidi (Schwartz) Yoder. Are you familiar with them?

    BTW (another cool abbreviation), you could've used the argument that since billy goats don't shave off their beards, then neither should we. That might've worked, until somebody would've pointed out that since they have hooves its hard to grip a razor...

    1. Hello Random Wengerd. Liked your argument. Even the best arguments usually have a few flaws! I tried to reply to your email, but wasn't sure if it was connecting with you. Yes, I'm quite familiar with Myron and Heidi; Myron just happens to be our son and I just happen to be the third member of that little singing group you're talking about. Only we're from Long Island, VA and not Floyd. If you haven't found the contact info you're looking for yet, email me at