Close Shave

It's just an ordinary morning in the bathroom . . . but this morning I find myself reflecting on my crumpled, almost spent, Gillette brushless shaving-cream tube.

   As I study this twisted mass of metal, hardly recognizable anymore as a useful toiletry, I'm impressed with a simple observation: This is not my doing. I don't treat tubes like this — any tube. I push the contents up from the bottom, even roll up the empty part, to keep a nice, neat mass of shaving cream readily available near the top where it belongs.

   It's obvious that this poor tube has been indiscriminately grasped in someone's hand and crushed beyond reason. What's more, a significant amount of its contents has been expelled, certainly far more than the sparing amount I usually extrude to shave with every day.

   I have reason to suspect my wife.

   I look in the bathtub and my suspicions are confirmed. Large lumps of waterlogged shaving cream clog the drain like cottage cheese in a kitchen sink. It looks like three, maybe four of my

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shaves have been luxuriated on her legs. Ten years of continuous lectures on the use and abuse of shaving cream have obviously fallen on deaf ears.

   Appraising the aftermath of this indulgence, I find myself unable to ward off a number of disquieting thoughts. Maybe I should hide the tube, hoard my own little stash of personal items. I don't have to put up with this.

   But then, I remember when I was single. Ah, yes! Everything just as I wanted it, where I wanted it. No wife smearing shaving cream all over her legs. No little children finger painting it on the shower walls.

   And finally, What would it be like to be married to someone who treats a tube with the same respect I do?

   This last thought shocks me back to reality. I can't believe I'm thinking these things! I'm allowing myself private thoughts of disentanglement because of a beat-up shaving cream tube. As I squeeze, roll, and pound the stiff metal, trying to free the last few globs for my rapidly drying beard, I realize this little tube has revealed a desire on my part to not completely "own" being married.

   My reflections turn to thoughts of ownership. If I don't completely own being married, then I don't have to own the problems associated with it. They're not mine, just like this tube is no longer mine. Financial problems, for instance, are the results of taking on the responsibility for a wife and kids. I had always kept my books in order before they came along.

   I pursue the idea, squeezing out the painful ramifications. How deep does this go? I'm not sure I want to know. How many of my problems have I refused to own, finding it much easier to place the responsibility on someone else?

   And what of sin? I wonder how much of sin's work I've overlooked in my life because I've refused to call it my own.

   I stare into the bathroom mirror, the last of the shaving cream beginning to rapidly crust on my face, and the revelation flows like water from a faucet. If I haven't owned my sin, then the forgiveness isn't mine either. If I haven't owned the pain in life, then I probably know little of true joy. If I haven't owned this marriage — the problems, the finances, the disagreements, the wasted shaving cream in the drain — then I'm not fully experiencing what it means to be one with my wife.

   I stare at the man in the mirror. I've looked at him so many

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times before; but this time I look deeper into his humanity and find him becoming uncomfortable, on the brink of turning away. He's fighting within himself — sure of what he must do but not sure he can do it.

   Suddenly, he looks me square in the face and speaks. "Hi. I'm John and I'm a sinner. And if it wasn't for the grace of God, I wouldn't be standing before you this morning."

   That confession is greeted with a sudden burst of applause in the room. New confidence floods him as he grabs a wrinkled-up red-and-white tube from the sink. He steps up onto the children's potty chair and clutches the tube tightly to his chest as if receiving an Olympic medal. Then he holds it up in front of himself reverently and speaks again. "And this . . . this beautiful mess of metal . . . this is my tube!"

   There's more applause; and it seems it will never cease — because, after all, it's just the water running in the bathroom sink.

Chapter 25  ||  Table of Contents