Haircut Time

“Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.”  Matthew 10:30


After being away a few years from our adopted home of Japan, I was very much looking forward to our recent visit. High on my priority list were of course spending time with friends and family, visiting a Japanese hot spring, eating all my favorite foods, riding on Japanese trains, taking trips to scenic locations and… getting a haircut. Despite our packed schedule, I was able to squeeze in an outing to the barber our second day back in Japan and again on the day of our departure. I settled into the barber chair, gave a few instructions and then proceeded to enjoy my much-anticipated experience. Wanting to maximize this unique opportunity, for a few hundred more yen, I even allowed myself the extra luxury of a shave.

The feathery touch of the barber seemed almost imperceptible to me as the quiet rhythmic snipping of his scissors, uninterrupted by mechanical devices, was like a sleep-inducing drug. I faintly recalled in my semi-comatose state that Japanese hairdressers pay exorbitant amounts of money for quality scissors made from the finest German or Japanese steel. Considering the cost, the scissors are regarded among their most prize possessions. Content to let me doze, the barber spoke only when necessary as he knows that I’m not there for just a haircut, but also to relax. In addition to cutting my hair, he silently moved on to removing other unwanted hair as part of the routine. Unibrows are divided into two equally matched eyebrows. Nose hairs are discreetly trimmed. Unsightly ear hairs are efficiently clipped into submission. Even one’s forehead is shaved as the barber leaves no stone unturned or any stray hair neglected in his never-ending quest for perfection.

The proprietor of the shop and chief barber was busy with another customer during my visit but he kept an eagle eye on his young apprentice attending me. Every few minutes the boss leaned in, inspected the ongoing masterpiece, and snipped a single hair as a subtle rebuke to the novice. All kinds of hair tonics, creams and gel were then offered to complete the experience. On occasion, concerned barbers in the past would kindly suggest a temporary remedy to help disguise my ever-growing bald spot. As I can’t see my own barren patch, I have little concern for this supposed flaw, but instead, I prepare to enjoy the climax of my Japanese haircut experience: a soothing scalp and shoulder massage. When money was tight, I sometimes frequented the much cheaper 10-minute express haircut establishments. Among other shortcuts, they literally vacuum the customer’s head at the end to save on time. But over the years, I learned to appreciate the traditional barber as one of life’s little luxuries.

When I eventually arose from the barber’s chair, I was surprised to notice the preponderance of gray hair scattered on the floor beneath me and the increasing scarcity of what was just removed. Both are a testimony of my advancing years, but the clumps of discarded hair also serve to remind me of the intricacies of God’s knowledge and amazing concern for me. (Matthew 10:30) The God of the universe, the Maker of Heaven and Earth (Psalm 121:2) who calls out each star by name (Isaiah 40:26) knows exactly how many hairs still remain on my head. Jesus used this powerful illustration to comfort his disciples when they were inclined to worry about circumstances beyond their control or things beyond their knowledge. He assured them, and us, that absolutely nothing escapes God’s notice and no one is beyond His care. He knows my hair and he knows my heart. The reminder of this precious truth was the best part of my haircut.