We’ve all heard sermons and read about how we should not judge people by their appearance. Looks are deceiving, and we should love others, no matter what they look like on the outside.

I recently heard a preacher say, however, that he personally loved tattoos and Mohawk haircuts. I thought instantly that he just meant that we should love everyone equally, despite how we might dislike their personal style of dress. But his odd confession caused me to reflect quite heavily on this subject.

You see, there was my husband’s beard. As much as I loved him, there was just no way I could ever love that unruly mess of untrimmed, scraggly, smelly “thing” he called a beard. But then I pondered how his once clean-shaven face had acquired such an untamed adornment.

I had assumed that his refusal to shave in those final years of his life just reflected his stubborn independence and personal desire for more control over his life. I was totally sympathetic to that common reasoning, and I’m sure that was part of it. But it wasn’t enough to make me love that beard.

Then I remembered how he got to where he wouldn’t shave. You see, after his accident almost twenty years ago, Dean lost his ability to drive, to work and provide for his family, to do all the things that defined his manhood. Being able to shave was all he had left, and even that was impaired, because shaving proved too challenging for him with the total loss of vision in one eye, due to the accident.

At first, Dean was able to do his own beard trims though (when I reminded him). When he lost that ability and home health nurses offered their services, he almost always refused. But who could blame him? It was like ripping off his last sign of masculinity.

Yes, that beard was a beautiful symbol to Dean. He never saw anything but a “manly” face when he looked in the mirror…

And for that, I will always love his beard.