I can get into trouble without even trying. My wife loves her hairdresser and likes nothing more than to have a haircut, sorry hair style, I think only we men of a certain age still get haircuts. But it’s not just a cut/trim or style, her visit to the hairdresser usually involves dye of one colour or another. Usually it’s just a dye resembling her natural colour (maybe she is hiding something) but sometimes it’s a more adventurous cut and colour to give her something of a new image.

When I arrive home, I never notice. And she doesn’t tell me, because, according to the rules of this game, I am meant to notice and somehow the whole effort has been wasted if I don’t. So as the evening progresses there is a perceptible tension between us and eventually she will say, “Notice anything.” This is a loaded question that creates a mild panic in me and I look around the room for something that is different. What am I meant to notice? Have the dishes been washed and put away?  I eventually twig to it being something about her hair, but any admiring comments are lost in that pile of comments and actions marked ‘Too little, too late’!

Brian woolyBrian fresh shaveWhat my wife doesn’t appreciate is that after 29 years of marriage I have stored away in my brain hundreds of images of her in various moods, hairstyles and colours. As long as her current look conforms to one of these images, to my mind nothing has changed and I simply recognise her as my wife.

So you can imagine my pleasure the other day when after shaving off my winter coat, a full and bushy beard, I met her for lunch and the boot was on the other foot. I waited. Nothing. My big shave had simply returned me to being one of the other images of me that she had stored in her head. I noticed her staring at me, she was aware of something about me. Finally, she told me I needed a haircut!

Recognition is a wonderful thing. For those things and people that we know best, we don’t need to see much to recognise them. A glimpse, a blurred image, a primary school photo, their hands, their voice, (their hair) is all that is needed for us to recognise them in their fullness. The less familiar we are with something, the more detail we will need to make the identification.  The apostle Paul talks of these two aspects of recognition and knowing in two ways. On the one hand we are reminded that the totality of God is far greater than we can comprehend and we should be careful about claiming too much knowledge for ourselves, on the other hand God knows us fully and loves us unconditionally. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

This is the gospel, and it’s good news.

Brian Spencer, Minister