–September of 2005
Finding God in a Barber Shop
We have a knack of looking for God in the wrong places. The Wise Men searched for the Christ child in the plush palaces of the capitol city of Jerusalem, only to find him in a humble home in lowly Bethlehem. The mighty Roman legions looked for God in the glory of Rome and its Caesar, but one soldier found him hanging on a cruel cross and acknowledged that “truly this was the Son of God.” Pilgrims have traversed the globe seeking Him everywhere from the Vatican City to Mecca. Even holiness people ramble about the country looking for Him in the wind, fire, and earthquakes of camp meetings and conventions, while more often than not, they find Him in the still small voice of a silent moment or the sermon of an unpretentious, unknown pastor back home.
I forget this lesson occasionally, and God has to remind me that if I don’t pay close attention, I too will miss a sacred opportunity to see Him. He used my good friend, Oscar, to teach me this lesson again.
Oscar Johnson has been a barber in the Cincinnati area for over forty years. He is a quiet, gentle, and unassuming man who is liked by everyone. He has enjoyed perfect health, not missing a day of work for sickness in 43 years. However, this May a few sharp pains in his back led to a diagnosis of stage-four cancer. It was so advanced that immediate surgery had to be performed to stabilize the lower vertebrae so his back would not collapse. It was all so sudden that it left everyone breathless and bewildered —everyone but Oscar. After six hours of extremely dangerous surgery, he told his family, “This has been a wonderful day. My family and all those I love have been here together today.”
My wife and I visited him the day after surgery. I was praying on the way to the hospital that I would say the right things to encourage him. But when I walked into the room there was no depressed mood or sad face. Oscar was beaming – literally smiling from ear to ear! He said, “Oh, Brother Avery, the insurance policy I took out with God forty years ago works! Every promise is true. He is working out every detail. I’m in a win-win situation.”
The outpouring of concern was overwhelming. His customers span the religious scale from Catholics to Buddhists and Muslims to Protestants. They wrote over two hundred cards and made at least a thousand phone calls. Why? Because Oscar left a clear witness to Christ to everyone who sat in his chair. A Muslim medical doctor was so impacted by Oscar’s life that he asked Oscar the secret to his happiness. This was a chance for Oscar to gently point him to Jesus. The doctor brought his father from Iran to meet Oscar so he could see “the happiest man in the world.”
I could tell you of college students, professors, lawyers, business leaders, and even a Hell’s Angel-type rebel, all who were drawn to Oscar’s bedside to stand for a few moments in the presence of a man who showed them Christ by the very life he lived.
My family visited Oscar last Saturday. With tear-filled eyes we listened to his closing words, “Brother Avery, whatever way it goes I’m still a winner. God has wonderful things in store for me!”
So many people in the world long to see Jesus, and God is always faithful to reveal Himself. I caught a glimpse of Him last Saturday in a hospital bed. And I can tell you about a lot of men who saw Him and found Him in a barber shop, cutting hair.