After a very enlightening visit to the dentist a few months ago, we were overjoyed to discover that Caroline (6 yrs) has a few of her baby teeth that are hosting a nasty cavity or 2 and it was going to mean fillings. So, a few weeks ago, we decided to up the ante of tooth care and add mouthwash to the girls’ nightly bed time ritual of homework, showers, and brushing teeth.
For Cadence (8 yrs), it was pretty easy going….for those of you that know Caroline, you know that very little with her is easy going. We tell people that our girls’ personalities match their hair. Cadence has straight brown hair, which means she is fairly laid back. She really likes to be in bed by 8:30, and by 9:00 she begins to get very anxious about it being so late and then proceeds to go to sleep pretty quick. Caroline, on the other had has curly blonde hair, and I’m pretty sure if we had had her first, we would have stopped there. I’m reminded of an episode of her getting ready for preschool a few years ago. After being told she couldn’t wear her special, ruby red, Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, church shoes to school, it resulted in a rolling on the floor, you’ve ripped my arms off catastrophe with repeated shouts of “I won’t be beautiful.” So, needless to say, introducing something new like mouthwash, something you and I might find commonplace, for Caroline was in fact the end of the world.
What started out as a small conflict of want vs. need, quickly shifted to a titan battle of wills that I refused to lose…but of course so did she. She was hysterically terrified of this idea of mouthwash. We explained how to do it, we both demonstrated how you take a little in your mouth, swash it around to wash all of your teeth, and then spit it out. We even bought children’s bubble gum flavor! She was not having. Caroline could not in any way move beyond the crippling fear that she could accidentally swallow the mouthwash and then it would make her sick or even worse.
After a couple of hours of my wife and I tag teaming the grudge match, we finally decided the level of Caroline’s hysteria had moved far beyond any chance of this being a fruitful venture and decided to let her calm down. Then we tried to discussed with her in detail about the alleged poison and let her go to bed with the promise we would try again the next night. (Which we did by the way and she was surprisingly immune to the arsenic laced substance.)
As she was beginning to calm down, I went into her room to try to console her and have a more rational conversation about the nights events. I scooped her up and held her in my lap amidst the sobs and whimpers and asked her, “Caroline, don’t you know that mommy and daddy love you?” Yes. “Don’t you know that mommy and daddy would never do any thing, or ask you to do anything that would ever hurt you?” Yes. “Then what are you afraid of?” “I might swallow it.”
Caroline’s fear of the the unknown, of taking the step to follow what Katie and I were asking her to do (which was undoubtedly for her own good, and for the health of her teeth) had nothing to do with her questioning our love for her. She in no way thought that we would ever intentionally harm her or ask her to do something that would harm her. Her fear stemmed from a lack of trust in herself. She was terrified that her own body would somehow betray her and inadvertently swallow this substance that in her mind could harm her.
Caroline didn’t trust herself or her body. For example, when a bird lands on a tree branch I wonder if the little bird lands on the tree branch trusting that the branch is not going to break, or does the bird have trust that the wings that carried him to branch can carry him to safety if the branch does break?
Many times, our God calls us into the unknown, and many times our fear cripples us from answering the call. Our typical indictment is that we simply do not trust that God can carry us through that which we are called. However, in this line of thinking, we sell ourselves (and that which our Sovereign has created) short. Our God created us, and our bodies. These shells, mortal as they may be host a myriad of complex and fascinating systems and mechanics; not to mention the amazing gifts and graces that God has bestowed out of love for us. I tend to believe that if God is calling us to something it is because God has gifted and graced us with the skills and abilities to achieve that call. Does that mean that we can always see that? No, and that is why often times with don’t answer the call. We don’t trust ourselves, and all that God has created in us.
So, today is a word of encouragement. Ephesians chapter 2, verse 10 states that we are God’s craftmanship. Other translations use the word, “masterpiece.” Now this particular verse is in a much longer discord with the Church at Ephesus where the Author is proclaiming a great message of hope to the readers. Because of their response to the Gospel, they are now experiencing a radical transformation of their personal and social identity. For the Author, they are in a way, being resocialized into God’s purposes and family. But, I think it can also speak to this same notion. God created us…. God knows us, and if God is calling us to it, then it must be because God has already created or is creating the tools needed.
The Psalmist echoes this idea in celebration of God’s work in them. So, I close with the words of Psalm 139: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful…
Thanks be to God!