Barbershop Theology (Introduction): “I Give You My Word.”

I grew up in Apache, Oklahoma. The air there is thick with Oklahoma culture; tribal Pow Wows, local rodeo hands, Mo Betta western wear, grazing cattle, sweeping wheat fields, Friday night football and salt-of-the-earth people.  These things describe my childhood home.

My dad was the town barber. As the shoe-shine boy and floor sweeper I spent hundreds, probably thousands of hours in Caldwell’s Barber Shop of Apache.  I learned to appreciate community and I met a lot of wonderful characters. It seems like yesterday and at the same time it seems like another age.

In my dad’s shop, and around the town, I saw a lot of business deals, from renting pasture and horse deals all the way to car trades and services to be rendered. The transactions were typically hinged on a final understanding:  knowing whose word to trust and when bovine excrement was in the mix. And I learned that a man was “as good as his word.”

In the beginning was the Word – the Gospel of John

Even before time and existence the Word is. The Gospel of John, in poetic form, unveils the declaration of eternal reality. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. This passage does not refer to “In the beginning” of all time and created existence. It refers to what is without beginning, the Infinite; In the beginning God . . .

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,

(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)

full of grace and truth.

If you want to touch truth, if you want to inhale grace, you have to take God at his Word. That phrase, “dwelt among us” is particularly a part of the disclosure of God. It refers pitching his tent, coming into our midst to abide.

Nelson Mandela noted, when we speak to someone in a language he understands, we reach his head. If we talk his language, we reach his heart. God spoke our language when the Word became flesh.

We used to say, “A man is only as good as his word.” Apparently we believed that a man’s word was the manifestation or expression of himself. Christ Jesus has walked on this earth. Yes, he was a good man and so very much more. He was God’s word. He is God’s word. How wonderful that Jesus Christ would become that manifestation or expression of God himself.

God seeks us out; He wants to seal His deal. And He does so by concluding, “You’re mine, I paid for your transgression, you’re free to come into my presence. It is so, I give you my Word.”



3 thoughts on “Barbershop Theology (Introduction): “I Give You My Word.””

  1. Oh, I really loved this. My favorite part? “If you want to touch truth, if you want to inhale grace, you have to take God at his Word.”

    Growing up as a country girl, I observed the same types of deals going down that you describe taking place in that barber shop; we learned early on who could be trusted and who couldn’t. Whose word meant something and whose did not.

    I never thoguht about His word this way, so thank you for that. MJ

    1. MJ – that WAS a beautiful phrase. I grew up in the country as well, and I think was struck me about Dallas’ essay was when I recalled people having commitments beyond any agreed word too. For example, there was always a sense of “we’ve got your back no matter what” – like a promise of a word never even spoken. Dallas has just been writing a few weeks, and we’re still working on getting his Gravatar up and comment feed to him…but we’ll get there. Take care, our northern friend.

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