As soon as I saw her come round the corner into the living room where I sat with our baby, I knew something was really wrong. Her eyes were swollen and puffy, face bloated from crying. “What happened, Hope?” This was not the face I expected to see, the joyous heart normally filled to the brim after an evening surrounded by church friends.
“I got hit in the face with a pipe-soccer-net thing (still not sure what this is…) and I think my tooth is chipped.” I quickly glanced in to see the extent of the damage, and noticing a piece missing, I swallowed hard. “And they wouldn’t let me go to Daddy!”
Now my mommy-fierceness made the hair on my neck stand up straight. My daughter sat for who knows how long, crying, not comforted, with a broken tooth, needing her Daddy, and we didn’t know.
Then comes more bad news. We take a flashlight and see a crack running sideways across the width of her permanent front tooth. A crack and a chip.
Have you ever had a dream your teeth were missing? I’ve had this dream several times. Always, I awake with considerable anxiety and feel around my mouth just to make sure it was only a dream. Someone once told me a dream about missing teeth can mean you are lacking wisdom. Interesting, isn’t it? But back to the events at hand.
So me being the type to (as my dad says) ‘prepare for the worst but hope for get best,’ I begin to make a plan. Except the main problem being, we don’t have dental insurance and last time I saw a dentist bill, it had several digits behind it and that was just a cleaning and consultation.
I prayed and cried and imagined my beautiful daughter growing up as a missionary kid with just one front tooth. I reminded God that these are HIS children, and well, he better take care of them. By this time it’s my turn for the red, swollen eyes and I give her some ibuprofen and tuck her in with prayers for a healed tooth and a kiss on the forehead.
Meanwhile thinking…what are we going to do?
Now I must tell you this very day, my husband and I had an interesting discussion about the baseline emotion of a Christian. Did you know that our baseline emotion as a follower of Christ should be joy? The joy of The Lord is our strength. While we experience a broad range of emotions in life…from pain to sadness to anger to loneliness….the baseline that we return to is (or should be) joy. The speaker we listen to asked us…How long does it take you to return to your baseline of joy? When you are derailed, disappointed, hurt…how quickly can you go back to your baseline?
“Truthfully,” I told Gert, “it takes me three days.”
“I know,” he replies. It takes him maybe a half-hour, just enough time for a good cup of coffee.
Why does it take me so long? I have been chewing on this all afternoon. So when Hope comes home, I immediately recognize my joy is derailed.
The next day, I am still trying to get back to my baseline of joy…after all, who wants to wait three days? But it’s hard to break patterns of behavior. That gut reaction…maybe for me it’s fear or anxiety or denial…just might be the wrong response to situations.
So I pray and smile but am not fooling anyone.
I insist we take Hope to the dentist, just for a consultation, to see what needs to be done. Gert is home, so he takes her in. They return in an hour, and Hope tells me, “Mom, they glued my tooth!”
The chip was cemented, crack repaired, x-rays showed only a superficial crack.
God’s way of showing me he will look after us.
The strange thing is, my old pattern of behavior wanted to still be anxious about her tooth, even after it was fixed! I am so accustomed to stress, I had to verbally release myself to get back to my baseline of joy.
God is working in me, restoring hope in him, a hope that does not disappoint. Romans 5:5. I want my gut reaction to life to be hope in him who does not disappoint. God is using this crack, running sideways in a tooth, to break off an big iceberg-sized flaw in my soul. I do not have to endure three days of muck. My joy is increasing, and feels like an unclogged stream of fresh water. It is liberating.
How long does it take you to return to your baseline of joy? Have you considered this concept before?