Two weeks ago my wife Jackie and I, along with two other stylists from our salon, flew to Las Vegas for Symposium, a salon industry event attended by hair stylists and salon owners from around the world. (Don’t let the location, or any preconceived notions that you may have about the salon industry fool you. Symposium is a first-rate, no-expense-spared, professional event packed with two days of some of the best educational programs, artists, and educators in the world.)
The night before we left, Jackie and I were having a conversation about why we taking the time off and spending the money to go at all. Neither of us was really excited about the trip. I think more than anything else, it was the opportunity to catch up with many friends from various parts of the country that we hadn’t seen in a long time.
During the flight the next day, I was listening to worship music on my iPod and wondering what the weekend had in store for us. I remember asking God if there was something that He had in store for me other than what I was expecting, because He has a habit of doing that.
The Grand Opening of Symposium was a spectacle of lights, pulsating music, and visual effects that set the tone of the weekend for the thousands in attendance. The charge of electricity coursing through the arena was palpable; I couldn’t help but get caught up in it, as did everyone sitting around us.
At one point in the program, a handful of salons were recognized for various awards. As the salon owners were being introduced to the audience for their respective awards, Shawna, one of our stylists that made the trip with us, asked “Why can’t we win one of those awards?”
Shawna’s question was like a punch in the gut. I sat there thinking about the fact that just a few years ago, our salon had been on the list of those that were being nominated for awards. Our meteoric rise to success with Redken had caught the attention of people throughout the corporation. In some circles, we were the “talk of the town”, as they say. But that was before…
When God first called on me to serve Him in 2007, I’ll admit that I resisted His call. You see, our still relatively new salon was something that I’d always dreamed of owning; a dream that I believed would never come true.
We had only been open for thirteen months when He began tugging on my heart. I loved God, and I loved sharing His message with others, but I loved our salon as well. And I actually tried to convince myself that I could serve Him and our salon with all that was in me. Quite honestly, I believe that I did a fairly decent job of serving both equally for quite a while. But I have to tell you that it was a real tug of war. And it wreaked havoc with any semblance of peace of mind that I had. It became obvious to me that the adage “You can’t serve two masters” is a true nugget of wisdom. I’m guessing that it’s obvious to you that God won the tug of war and I’m so grateful that He did, and that He didn’t give up on me.
The next morning Jackie and I were talking about the previous night, and Shawna’s question. At some point in our conversation Jackie looked at me and said, “Why can’t we win one of those awards? What’s missing?”
“The answer is simple.” I replied. “The truth is that one of our salon’s owners isn’t as dedicated to its success as he used to be. He’d rather serve God than chase dollars and awards. I’m sorry.”
Fighting back tears, and stepping up to me, Jackie said, “I’m so proud of you for how much you’ve changed, and who you’ve become, and what you do.” For the next few moments we just stood there and held on to each other. I knew that I didn’t have to be sorry. But…
The tug of war was on again.
For the next two days I toyed with the idea of once again trying to serve God and our salon with equal fervor. I figured that I had done it before with a moderate amount of success, so why shouldn’t I be able to do it again?
There was something growing in me that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. It was envy, and it was rearing its ugly head. I would speak to other very successful salon owners, and wonder “They’re good people. Why can’t I have what they have?”
The next thing I knew, “sugar-plum fairies” disguised as dollar bills were dancing in my head! I wanted the sweet taste of financial success, and all that came with it. I was calculating ways in which I could allot my time so that I might be all that I should be for God, my family, my church, my ministry (At the urging of several friends I’ve accepted the fact that The Seed of Hope, the prayer room in our hair salon, and my efforts to share God’s love with others has evolved into a ministry.), and our salon. I mean, serving God didn’t have to be the center of my life, did it? After all, we’re fifty-eight years old and are nowhere near having enough money to retire on and live comfortably. I kept telling myself that “I’m just gonna have to change what I do, and when I do it. God will understand. This tug of war is over.”
God was listening.
It was the last night of our stay in Vegas, and we decided to have dinner at a restaurant that was farther than we cared to walk from our hotel. We hailed a taxi, and when it pulled up, Jackie, Shawna, and Katie (the fourth member of our party) piled into the back seat. I took a seat in the front with the driver.
The first thing I noticed was that our cabbie was a woman. (I mention this only because I’ve never had a female taxi driver.) The next thing was that she had long dark hair, a dark complexion, and an accent that sounded as if she were from the Middle East. She was wearing a big smile. And she liked to talk. Her name was Jeanette.
After answering Jeanette’s questions about where we were from, what we did for a living, what brought us to Las Vegas, and how we were enjoying our trip, she turned to me and asked, “So, how are you doing?”
My usual response is “I’m awesome!” and that’s almost what I said. But I didn’t. Something told me not to. Instead, I replied “I’m blessed. God gave me another day.”
“You’re right!” Jeanette replied. “And so many people take that for granted.”
Wondering where this was going, I asked, “So where are you from, Jeanette?”
I was a little disappointed when she answered “Iran.” I just knew that this was gonna be one of those“God-appointed moments,” but I apparently I was wrong. Several seconds passed when Jeanette added, “But I’m a Christian.”
BAM! The real conversation began. The next five minutes were filled with Jeanette and me cramming in as much about God, and spirituality, and life as we could in the short time that we had together. It was amazing. What were the odds of a salon owner from Alabama with God in his heart getting into a taxi driven by a Christian from Iran, in Las Vegas?
Knowing that our time was coming to an end, and reaching for my card holder, I asked Jeanette if she got on the Internet. She told me that she had a computer, but that she didn’t really have the time. Undaunted, I handed her a Seed of Hope card, told her what it was about, and suggested that she take the time to check it out.
“Oh my God. Oh my God. This…this is wonderful, what you’re doing. Oh my God.” Jeanette said while fighting back tears. To this day, I still don’t know what it was that touched Jeanette so deeply. Perhaps it was a confirmation from God for a prayer that she’d been saying. Perhaps there was a sorrow in her heart that was that was awakened in our conversation. I just didn’t know, and I never had the opportunity ask. All too quickly, we had arrived at our destination.
When we got out of the taxi, Jeanette walked around and hugged each one of us, beginning with Jackie and ending with me. As I held her in my arms I whispered softly in her ear “You know that God put us together for a reason. I don’t know the reason for your tears, but God will take care of anything, if you’ll let Him.” I gave her a kiss on the cheek as we stepped away from one another. Waving goodbye and bidding us well, Jeanette got into her taxi and drove off into the night.
I still don’t know why God put me in Jeanette’s path, but I’m sure that she does. I do know why He put her in my path. He was reminding me that sharing His love with others fills my heart with more joy and satisfaction than all the money in the world.
He won the tug of war. I’m back in the salon, sitting in our prayer room, sharing what’s on my heart with you. He’s at the center of my life. He gets priority over the salon; today, tomorrow, and all the days that are to come. Next are Jackie and our family, followed by my ministry, and a group of young adults in our church that mean the world to me. The salon gets what’s left. We’ll be as successful as He wants us to be.
No more tug of war.