Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Teeth

Most people hate going to the dentist.  My father was one of them.  He didn't complain about many things in life but the dentist was one of them.  His teeth were soft, fillings were plenty, and even I remember a particularly bad stretch with a swollen cheek when I was in elementary school due to some kind of dental procedure.

 Beve doesn't exactly complain about going to our dentist (who is a personal friend) but isn't ever a treat for him, either.  Beve wore braces as a kid, but you wouldn't know it.  His bottom teeth are as crooked as if his parents hadn't spent all that money for all that hardware.  That money wasted--that sticks in Beve's craw, I can tell you that.  But he works at his teeth.  He NEVER forgets to floss (except the night he had to spend with his dad in the hospital, which he didn't know was coming so was unprepared with ablution products--fuzzy teeth the whole next day, just about drove him more crazy than all the other things driving him crazy that long, pre-surgery day!), brushes his teeth like it's his job, just generally takes the care they tell us to take.

And then there's me.  Haphazard at best when it comes to flossing.  When we've had steak, certainly.  Corn on the cob.  Other times...well, I go in spurts.  Just lazier than Beve--like in most things. It can be a rather overwhelmingly daunting thing to live with someone so UNlazy.  I mean, the man just doesn't stop. Doesn't demand others work when he's working--but just works himself. In fact, sometimes he actually tells me to 'just come out and talk to me while I'm working' in the yard, and he pulls a lawn chair out for me so I can.  As I say, ridiculous. Saintly.  Who can measure up? So I just live my life in the shadow at my own pace.  Like with flossing. Do it when I do it, the end.

Then I go to the dentist. And it's like an hour of grace showered on my head...er, my mouth.  For no good reason, certainly not because I've done it, my teeth are always beautiful.  Raved over.  Yesterday I had a hygienist I hadn't seen before.  "This is going to be easy-peasy," she told me after doing the numbering check (do you know what I'm talking about?).  "You don't have ANY plaque build-up. You must use a Sonic-care."  I confessed I don't.  Just a simple toothbrush.  "Well, whatever you do, it's working."

Then the partner of our regular dentist came in.  Oohed and aahed over my orthodontia--the pulled teeth, the way the eye-teeth were ground down to look better right in front, yada, yada, yada.  I've heard it all before.  "Really, you have great teeth," she said. As if I had something to do with them  (Just so you know, I have these really great teeth in just about the smallest opening any of them ever see, which means it's just as well they never have to do much!)

But I got to thinking about all this last night as I watched Beve carefully floss and brush his teeth.  It's a little like what we often think it takes to get to God, and by we I mean humankind throughout history. A whole lot of effort is required.  Daily, constant, rigid effort and even at that, we find out we have cavities.  Fatal flaws where things decay and ultimately destroy our lives.  We cannot be vigilant enough because we are soft.  Flawed.  We are our own cavities, in a way.

We can work and work and work, and end up with terrible teeth, if the material isn't strong enough to start with.  I realize as I write this that I'm venturing into the murky waters of whether people are born sinners or become sinners.  I think that question is beside the point most of the time, asked because people have other agendas and want to punctuate their argument with this one.  The truth is, it doesn't matter because soon enough we do sin.  There isn't any among us who doesn't, and not a single one on earth can argue against that.  Personally I find babies innocent, believe our tiniest humans the truest humans on earth, nearest to heaven. But I also find our elderly that way as well--if they allow themselves to be, like Grampie.

OK, back on track. Sorry about the sidebar.  My point is that even if we're born innocent, we're born with the material to sin.  That ability is in us.  That's what I mean about sooner or later.  Decay will come.  Rot will happen.  And eventually, without God stepping in, we'd all be left without teeth at all. Dead. Fodder for worms with not a tooth in the skull.  That's the truth.  It's only by His stepping in that there is any possibility of a change in that trajectory.  We cannot follow the rules well enough.  The Israelites proved that.  Every nation with laws and law-breakers continue to prove it.  Read Romans--it's Paul's treatise on how the law pointed out, then actually created our law-breaking.

But the Incarnation.  "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  While we were so full of cavities we were decaying all the way to the grave, Christ intercepted that decay, took it on Himself, and gave us perfect teeth--along with everything else.  He got in the way of our decay.  He actually became our decay.  And it killed Him.  And look at us now--we're living the high life, with beautiful teeth and a smile to match it.

This means, of course, that we must--we MUST--pay attention to how we live from here.  That's what I think, anyway.  I can't bear that what He did be in vain.  I can't bear that all that decay He took on my behalf--and everyone else's--be just so we eat, drink and be merry, without living with Him our primary goal and aim.  If He did this live-changing thing, this one true thing, there's only one true response--to live for Him. Daily caring for my life so that what He did counts. Caring for Him as He cares for me.

That's a thought with teeth to it.

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