Friday, June 30, 2017
Back when I was growing up, you went to the barber shop for a hair cut. No one made an appointment. You just went, sat, and waited your turn. There were no stylist, just barbers. No televisions were perched at every corner. Men and boys passed the time while reading old magazines and listening to the old guys talk men talk. It was the kind of place Jayber Crow had in Port William. When Wendell Berry wrote "Jayber Crow" he set such a place right in the middle of the community.
One night after working hours, Matt Feltner came to sit a spell. Matt's son, Virgil, had been reported missing and was now presumed dead in the war. The two men talked about everything but the loss and grief the father brought into the shop. Finally, they came to a place of having talked in general terms about the war which caused Jayber to offer an attempt at comfort. "Well, along with all else, there's goodness and beauty too. I guess that's the mercy of the world." Then, out of the mouth of the grief stricken father came the words I had to underline before closing the book for a spell, "The mercy of the world is you don't know what's going to happen."
We often talk about wanting to know how some story which is a part of our life is going to play out. "If only I could see into the future..." we say. Most of us never think of the unknown part of our life as a gift of mercy. Imagine if we knew ahead of time some of the tragedy and hard times which touched our life. Imagine if we knew a certain thing was going to fall heavy upon us tomorrow at noon. Do we really want to know all the future that is before us? Is not living the present moment really all we really want to do? God knows what is around the bend. We cannot see, nor can we know. Surely, if we think about it for a time, we will come to the same place as the old man in the barber shop. The fact that we cannot know what is ahead does not speak of an uncaring God, but one who gives mercy.