I hate going to the dentist.
I’ve shared this with you before, so I know many of you echo my abhorrence. We all agree that it’s of course necessary . . . and can be awful too. For me, the dentist was a gap in my self-care practices. I neglected my teeth as a young adult and then as a young mom while I spent nearly a decade pregnant and nursing and raising babies into toddlers and kids and preteens. Of course I brought them all to the dentist, faithfully making their appointments for cleanings and the occasional cavity. But for my own self. . . not so much.
Until one spring, when I had a toothache. Then it was no longer avoidable. As the kindest dentist in the world (a gift from the Lord Himself, I tell you) finished the assessment for repair, she gently suggested we schedule my next cleaning right then and there as I was still mouth-open in the chair.
No escaping this, I thought.
And so for the next three years, I trudged back for appointments, fillings, cleanings, x-rays, adjustments, crowns, and assessments.
Thoughts — most of them untrue and unkind — rolled through my head. How could I have let this get so bad? How could I take such intentional care of my kids and not of myself? Why do I have to be so scared of this? No one else has this issue! This is dumb. I am dumb. I’m costing my family so much money as we fix this mess!
What began in fear grew into a mountain of despair so unapproachable that I hid from it for years, while the shame (and plaque) built up.
At first, I was so terrified of the pain in my jaw and the pain of perceived judgment that I had my husband go with me to appointments to hold my hand. I was petrified at each visit of what they would find and have to fix, and how they would look at me with contempt (which they never did, but assigning the thoughts others have about me is an unfortunate superpower of mine). Years of neglect had eroded my enamel and my peace. But as I continued going in, I slowly (very slowly) started to gain confidence. I began to change my mind.
As we continued through my treatment plan, repairing one area of damage at a time, I forgave the Anna from years ago who was too scared to even take care of herself. I forgave her for not flossing enough. I forgave her for being at the mercy of genetics (out of my control, obviously, and yet the blame was there to take). I forgave her for needing nitrous gas even during a cleaning. I forgave her.
And I started to actually heal.
Now — finally — on the other side of my treatment plan, I recently had my first ever cavity-free cleaning. My doctor said, “Keep doing what you’re doing! Your hard work is really paying off, and we can see it!” And I beamed with pride.
On the way home, I realized that sentence had stuck with me. The dentist could see the effects of my routines, good or otherwise. It occurred to me that the dentist is one place where my consistency and work are laid bare, put on display, and I can’t hide from my habits. If I’ve brushed, flossed, mouth-washed, and taken care of myself, it will show. If I haven’t, it’ll be cavity city. Either way, there is evidence of what I actively cultivate.
Isn’t this just like our life with God?
When the phone rings. When the job is lost. When the bills come. When we’re called to the carpet and put under a spotlight, our habits are made known. Will we be strong enough to withstand the circumstance? Or will we wash away like sand with the tide?
This summer my family experienced a devastating job loss that meant we also lost our church home of nearly twenty years. It’s been painful, to say the least. But through it all, I’ve been so deeply thankful that the love we have for Jesus has never faltered. I never questioned my status with Him (which is beloved, by the way, as is yours!). Accidentally-on-purpose, I’ve spent decades building up my God-muscles. Reading the Word and tucking away truths. Praying, always praying. Asking others to pray when my words are gone. Knowing it’s okay to fall into Him and cry.
This summer felt like walking into the dentist’s office and bearing the marks of great oral hygiene. Our habits were put to the test. Would we hold up, or would we crumble?
The work we do today to build up our hearts and relationship with Jesus — the worship, the quiet times, the Bible study, the reading and praying and studying, the praise — is what lays our foundation for tomorrow, and every day after that.
So make those dental appointments and open that Bible. Brush and floss, and lift your hands in praise. Mouthwash like your gums depend on it, and write out your prayers like it’s going to make a difference.
Because it is. Every single act of pouring into a relationship with God matters. In the intricate Lego creations my kids make, each brick is imperative to the design and structural support; likewise, each small act of getting to know God’s heart builds upon one another to create a beautiful and solid structure.
Tell me, friends: are you feeling like your foundation is firm these days? How can you make a habit of that which will produce good fruit?
Thank you Anna, I can’t express just how much this means to me where I’m at today. It’s like God told you what to write, then nudged me on this particular day to get on here and read, because He knew just what I needed to hear. Much love, ~G
Anna E. Rendell says
Oh G, I’m so glad. What a gift to be met right where we are.
Ruth Mills says
I needed this this am! I was SO tempted to reset the alarm & sleep some more postponing my time in The Word & worship but not knowing what will distract or demand later time slots I must work on the foundation now! I’ve shared with my Titus 2 group & others who I know will be encouraged as well. Thank you for stepping on my toes this am!
PS I used to have to take Valium to get me to go to the dentist. I’ve learned dental work is not fatal ;~) & was designed to improve my prayer life! I pray for the dentist & staff & others in need. Makes having 10,000 instruments in your mouth at once & being asked questions less stressful & much more productive!
Anna E. Rendell says
Ruth that’s brilliant! So smart! I’ll be using your coping technique at my next cleaning.
Sharon A says
This was just what I needed today and hank you! Praise God I had very similar results to your. I have a wonderful hygienist who has helped me and I know God sent her to me. Bless you Anna!!
Anna E. Rendell says
I’m so glad to hear that, Sharon — gentle, wonderful hygienists are such a blessing!
Kemi George says
Thank you so much. The write up is a fact of life where you are either afraid to do certain thing or you keep procastinating about what you are expected to do.
May God help us to always be at our duty posts to do what is expected of us without giving excuses or looking for easy way out in Jesus name, amen.
Angelia C. says
So. Very. Timely!! Thank you!
Anna E. Rendell says
I’m so glad, Angelia. Thank you for being here!
Beth Williams says
All of us need to build healthy habits for our bodies, minds & souls. Doing so takes roughly 2 months. Once you start establishing those habits we must keep at it daily. Put some spiritual whitespace on your calendar daily for yourself. You will be erecting a strong foundation for tomorrow. One that will last a long time.
Great message and in God’s time as well. The Lego example speaks volumes for sure 80’s baby here! Thank you for your message this lovely morning!