It’s August, which means that in our neck of the Southern woods, we’re enduring stifling heat that’s thick as molasses and, more importantly, gearing up for football. As I write, our oldest son’s away at football camp at Ferrum College, and last night I took our youngest son to Dick’s Sporting Goods for our annual trip to pick out cleats and a mouth guard.

 

These days return me to Texas in the mid 80’s when for a few years, my dad cut my hair. I can't imagine how he got roped into that, but I think he came to enjoy standing behind the barber's chair (dining room chair) working those clippers. Maybe it was because this was a defined task that he could actually complete – and with satisfaction, unlike most everything else in a pastor's life. Maybe he just liked cutting his boy's hair.

 

On a summer evening before seventh grade, I was planning to try out for football. I was short and slow and lacked that aggressive streak most warriors of the gridiron need. My dad tied the bath towel around my neck and clipped away. However, I know now that on this evening the ritual was really a pretext for a father/son conversation. He wanted me to know that even though he had played football, he wasn't putting any expectations on me...that I could find my own path...that he loved me and that football needed to be for me, not for him.

 

Those words are a real gift from a father to a son.

 

The next month, I did play football. But I also started going to Ms. Janie for $5 haircuts. I think my mom must have stepped in and decreed that dad's barber skills didn't pass muster for the junior high scene.

 

I’m grateful my dad saw me on that July evening, that he knew I needed to be free to find my own way. I've never cut Wyatt or Seth's hair (they wouldn't let me anywhere close), but his tender words on that balmy evening have helped me see them a little better.

 

Oh and mom, I know you're listening from the Other Side. Thanks for sending me to Ms. Janie.