When love doesn’t (seem to) work

‘Mom. That was not a very pleasant experience. At all.’

This was Cam’s accurate appraisal of the trauma inflicted by the Barber of Doom, as we headed home for compensatory ice-cream and as much sprinkled Milo as they wanted.


The boys’ hair had reached embarrassing unruliness and I couldn’t get an appointment at our usual salon. So after school on Tuesday we stopped at a barber down the road.

As we came through the door, someone blew a fog of vapour into my face, because the someone was vaping. When the vape-type-swirly-smoke had cleared, there stood the large, terrifyingly bearded man who was about to apply sharp objects to the heads of my children.

I greeted the dude with (appropriate) (not manic) politeness. He ignored me. In fact he scowled, like my greeting offended him. Like he hoped to shrivel me with his gaze.

He stared at us.

I said hi again.

More staring.

Eloquently, I said, Um.

Then I pointed to my boys and tried again to strike up a conversation in which I played the role of sweet-smiling paying-customer – in the hopes of coaxing him into the role of gracious-and-accommodating barber.

Not happening.

Then came his first communication (apart from the smoke signals):

He gesticulated to Cam, and the chair.

‘How must I cut?’

I was still a little stunned by the palpable foulness of his mood. The rays of it were messing with my cell phone signal.

I gave a flustered short-back-and-sides descriptor but there was an angry tide heaving in my gut because Are You Kidding Me, You Rude, Rude Person?

He was more head-wrangler than barber. Shoved Cam rough from side-to-side and back-to-front to get at the ears and the neck and possibly the jugular.

(Meanwhile – thank God – another much, MUCH nicer barber appeared and got stuck into Scott’s curls.)



I silently rehearsed sarcastic retorts I would fling through the door as I let it slam behind us – for the last time – because we wouldn’t be bringing our business through it ever again.

Then I turned the brain-heat down to a simmer and some helpful thoughts surfaced.

I thought, What sad thing happened to this man? What happened today? Last night? Ten years ago? What choice does he regret? What sort of journey led him to a place where, when someone smiles and greets, he can’t smile and greet back?

I thought about how Michael Arnold encouraged me to pray, Lord, show me who I’m judging. (So I did some quick repentance because I’d pole vaulted to all sorts of conclusions based on the images inked on his razor-wielding arms.)

I thought, God wastes nothing. I don’t want to waste this interaction.

Then I thought –

Love never fails.

Which doesn’t feel true. Because I’ve loved some people for years. I’ve bent every which way to love them all the ways I know how. It’s flopped. No response or reciprocation. No softening of hearts towards me or God.

And loving this barber was having zero apparent success.

And yet Paul says it like it is. Love never fails.

Which means –

It succeeds. It Works. Every. Time.

So when it was all over and the boys had neater hair and wilder eyes, I paid, mustered all the inner niceness and said, ‘Thanks so much. Have a good day.’

No door slamming. (Though I was tempted.)

I sometimes walk away from something like that throwing a tiny pity party in my head. As in,

What’s the point? Love does NOT work. I’m so freakin’ friendly, and for WHAT?

But God’s been saying to me –

I see the heart.

He sees my heart, genuinely desiring to love and respect the barber.

But He sees the barber’s heart too.

And I have to believe that I left his heart in a different state to how I found it.

Because, if I’d been as insolent or ill-mannered to him as he was to me, both our hearts would surely be in a worse state when we parted.

I can’t see that my kindness changed his heart in any way. But I didn’t add to the damage.

I’m hoping if enough people heap love on that barber – the genuine, relentless affection of the Father who runs to us, to rescue us – it might all add up to some kind of wonderful tipping point.

Too often we underestimate the power of God’s presence – forgetting that we take it with us wherever we go. And so wherever we go maybe we’ve got to ask ourselves,

What does love require of me?

Checking emails, grinding beans, standing in queues, picking up and dropping off, making meals and decisions –

How can we make sure that whoever we interact with today, we leave them somehow different, by choosing to love?

Maybe if we keep on being brave enough to forgive, and to stay connected to a hurting, hating world, that world will begin to feel different, and so will we.


. . .

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  1. Thanks; I asked God to speak to me this morning and listened a long time if I could hear His voice…. but nothing. I decided I waited long enough, said my goodbye, saw my cellphone went to Fb and there I came across your message of love. 🙂


  2. thank you for this post – can’t begin to tell you how much I needed to read this today – thank you for being so very sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and writing what/how you feel – xx


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