Most in life, myself included, pursue happiness. There was even the movie with the cute kid in it and the dad who had an uphill battle to better their life. Showing that happiness is not fluffy and easy. But with Easter my thoughts went to our Holy God…and His desire for us to to be fine tuned, to grow, to be content and grounded, confident and aligned, to recognise and act to remove sin in our lives. That can take a hard phase of stripping back the layers of selfishness, self-reliance, compromising, of becoming aware of the things that sit in our lives that shouldn’t and so much more.
I don’t know about you but I do not like going to the dentist at all. There are patches where it will be five plus years between a visit because I pluck up the courage to go each year for a little patch only to find I don’t need anything done so I get complacent and justify why I don’t need to. But this time I got some nasty news, and it highlighted why going earlier would have been better. My overbite was causing the enamel to wear thin and before long I’ll need root canals and crowns on the top and bottom row at the front of my mouth. Expensive and horrible to go through. His other option was to correct the overbite to avoid that, but also ensure long term my jaw doesn’t become affected too. We discussed the ins and outs of that process and the cost, he even queried if other dentists had brought it to my attention. I wasn’t a fan of that option either, but in talking to my wonderful man that was the option to go with so I sent an e-mail, to slow down the process and awaited a response. Weeks on there was no follow up so I called because I knew in-action wasn’t wise. After all a dentist in my teens had discussed fixing the overbite, but we didn’t have the funds and it had seemed cosmetic driven. Then in my early years of marriage it was again mentioned, but again cosmetic driven and not the warning of what can unfold if left to deteriorate. I as older and wiser, comfortable in myself to deal with the awkward stage and we had the means. So it was go time!
Now I have a terrible gag reflex and having to get the moulds for the invisalign was not fun. Part way through I told the dentist perhaps the option of root canals and crowns down the track was a better one. I could defer my discomfort till a later date, so clearly not as mature as I’d like to think as I was focused on the now. But no, we pressed on and got there. Now I’m awaiting the phase when the trays are here and I need to adapt to that. I hear it’s painful for the first week, your speech is affected and it can be a year long process. There is a mix of dread and just wanting to crack into it.
Oddly enough in my teens I would hide my smile behind my hand because of my imperfect teeth. Now the dentist is saying this will correct that as a bonus. Little did he know that was not what I wanted. I asked if there was a way to correct the overbite causing the issues without ‘fixing’ my teeth. I’ve become accustomed to my smile with the imperfections, I’ve come to like the quirks because it’s unique to me, and I’ve come to see it as a beautiful reminder of God in me.
For years I hid my smile in embarrassment but then my wonderful man when we were teens in the friend zone would ask why I would do that. I hadn’t realised what a habit it had become until a few of my close friends started pulling my hand away each time I did to break the habit. Not long later I took out first spot for smile of the year at youth group. And in the many years to follow people mention how much my wide smile blesses them, I haven’t worked out quite why but I do love it makes them feel good. For me personally I love that something many comment on shines of God, but still has imperfections, I’m going to miss that at the end of this fixing process. It reminds me that God creates, He refines, He purposes and He is glorified. He is the focus! It reminds me that the things others see in me that enriches their life is because of Him, and even my weaknesses and imperfections when aligned with Him can be used for good. It also reminds me that things that are a win have flaws and I can’t boast in them. And all that put together reminds me how important it is to pursue holiness in the mix of all else.
Recently in the bible study we’ve studied the portion of Genesis where Jacob wrestles with God on the journey back to his home and the destiny set before him. It’s always perplexed me until this time around. Because of my new role and the timing of visiting classes due to re-scheduling with lock downs I studied this lesson six times. Clearly showing God wanted me to grasp something in it. And what I gleaned was Jacob was tenacious, he was able to cling and wrestle longer than others but God did not overcome because He couldn’t, rather allowing space for Jacob to pursue holiness, to depend on God and not self, to acknowledge the strengths he had could cause harm when not aligned with God’s heart, and that in his limp that came of the turning point the weakness was a blessing that allowed him to depend on God rather than self with greater ease. I saw many similarities in myself with Jacob. The countless stories of my childhood where my tenacious, self reliant ways held centre stage to the anecdote being shared. My strengths can be harmful when not aligned with God. My limp of our journey to be a family has caused me to seek, to find and to grow. It has given me the richest blessings a girl could hope for, amongst the deepest pains. And the story is not finished yet!
So as I take the mix of needing to fix my overbite, the theme this Easter held for me of pursuing holiness and the lingering thoughts of the study of Jacob I see I’m very much a work in progress, that has wins in strong steps forward, but then also steps back and needs to be aware of and responsive to.
How about you? Are you so busy being busy that you’ve no space to allow the Spirit to prompt you to recognise the pit falls, to see the areas to align and go through the tough patch to get to the better one? Are you so set in your ways that you are happy to just carry on as is and risk the pit falls beyond if you continue to ignore, to allow compromising and justifying? Or are you ready to roll up your sleeves and allow God to do what only He can as the work in progress you are?
My teeth may be getting an unwanted but needed overhaul, but more importantly my heart, my mind, my ways continue to be refined and established in God all the more as I seek holiness. Shall we do this messy, hard but necessary part together? Community is what allows this to be all the more valuable.