Glen is sixty-three years old and declared, “I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois; I was a Northerner, but I was raised with Southern roots. My mother and father were from Tennessee and moved to Chicago to find work” That may explain Glen’s mountain-man “Duck Dynasty” beard. Glen’s parents were part of the “Appalachian Diaspora”. In the years following WWII thousands of southerners migrated up the “Hillbilly Highway” to the northern industrial cities, like Chicago, to find work.
The first time I met Glen was at the assisted living facility where my buddy and hospice patient, Patrick, resides along with the twenty-three other residents, including Glen. It was a beautiful day and Glen was sitting outside watching Becky, the administrator, French braid some of the female residents’ hair. Thinking that Glen looked like the kind of a guy who might be up for a friendly jest, I told him, “I have five dollars in my pocket that I’ll give you if you let Becky braid your beard.” He just smiled and shook his head, “No”. I told him, “The offer still stands anytime you’re ready.” So week after week I reminded Glen of the standing offer. I even raised it to ten dollars, but Glen continued to just smile and shake his head “no”.
Then, one day, upon arriving I found Glen outside on the patio with a few of the other residents. I reminded Glen, “The offer still stands at ten dollars”. Then Penny, another resident, emphatically asserted, “Glen will never let anyone braid his beard!” Then I countered, “What about twenty dollars?” This time Glen didn’t shake his head “no”. He just looked at me as if to ask, “Are you really serious”.
I walked inside and down the hall to Patrick’s room. About five minutes into our conversation we heard a knock and then the door flew open. To our surprise there stood Glen standing behind his walker wearing his beret, and he asked “Are you serious about that twenty-dollars?” I assured him I was and he replied, “I’ll be right back!” About ten minutes later Glen returned with his beard French braided with a thin pink ribbon tied on the end to hold it together. I gave him his twenty dollars; he stuffed it into his pants pocket and said, “Thanks man, I really appreciate it!” I told Glen, “You can take that out of your beard anytime, I just had to see it first”. Glen replied, “I think I’ll leave it in for a while”, and then walked away. Patrick laughed and said, “That’s hilarious!” I suggested, “I guess it’s true, every man does have his price.”
The following week I propositioned Glen about collaborating to write this column. Glen is a reader and thinker. And Glen is a spiritual man, a Christian, able to quote scriptures from memory. I suggested to Glen that our story be titled, “Every man has his price”, but with a spiritual, Biblical twist, and Glen replied, “That’s sounds interesting.”
So we discussed Jesus’ statement, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:25-26). We talked about how we all make trade-offs or exchanges throughout life but how, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose”. I suggested that there’s nothing free in this life; that everything comes with a price tag attached. I quoted a Russian proverb that my coworker, Viktoriya had shared with me, “Nothing is free in this world except the cheese in the mousetrap.” I suggested to Glen that not even God’s grace or our redemption is free.
I believe the Bible supports the notion that we all have a price on our heads. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); and, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); and that “….without shedding of blood there is no remission (pardon or forgiveness) of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Timothy Keller, in his book “Counterfeit Gods” writes about man’s misdirected and vain search for self-redemption. We strive to redeem, vindicate and justify ourselves by being strong enough, smart enough, skillful enough, successful enough, or good enough. But the bad news is, “…there’s only one good, and that’s God” (Matthew 19:17). So where does that leave the rest of us; in the need of a Redeemer. But the good news is, when Jesus took His last breath on the cross that day he cried out, “It is finished”, an ancient accounting phrase meaning, “paid in full”. (John 19:30). In the words of my buddy Glen, “It wasn’t free for Him, but it’s free to us”.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525