But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)
Twenty-eight, just in case you are wondering. That is the number of teeth in my mouth. You probably do not care much about that, and that is OK. Recently the Creator of the universe took it upon Himself to remind me that this number matters to Him.
Let’s get one thing straight: I am a big baby. As in, I am allergic to pain. I am also very self-conscious—and I must mention that I hate going to the dentist. My parents always did a great job getting my sisters and me to the dentist when we were little, every six months, without fail. Within the first 18 years of my life, I had had multiple fillings and cleanings, several sealants, and numerous Novocain shots. Once that mysterious and wonderful blanket of “dental insurance” expired and I was on my own to pay for the dentist, however, I had no problem dropping this habitual visit to the bottom of my priority list (right down there with mammograms and colonoscopies). Now, as a 34-year-old woman, I have managed to go back to the dentist only a handful of times—when the pain got so bad I could no longer stand it, and a root canal was imminent.
The root canal was done in Asia-Pacific, where my husband and I currently minister. It was slightly less expensive than in the States, but I imagine it was just as painful and tedious as any root canal anywhere—and the dentist was not very nice. She told me it was my fault that my tooth was rotten and my roots were exposed to the elements.
“Oh, that’s deep! What did you do?!” she exclaimed in broken English on my first visit. After those dreadful root canal visits were over, I was even more convinced than ever that the dentist was going back at the bottom of my priority list.
Just a year afterward, however, I noticed a small gap forming in the top corner of one of my front teeth. I tried to ignore it, hoping it would disappear. It did not. Instead, it brought a friend—a mirrored version of the gap formed on the right side. There was no pain, thankfully, so I went on with my life. I noticed that I started smiling less, not wanting people to see what I considered gaping holes—bearing witness to the world of my bad brushing and flossing habits and my addiction to sweet iced coffee and Coke.
Then, a few weeks ago, my seven-year-old son started complaining that his tooth hurt. Growing up in Asia-Pacific, he has yet to go to the dentist. Not that there are no good dentists around—this just has not been on his mom’s priority list.
One night, my husband said the inevitable: “Hey, we should take Braden to the dentist—and you can have them look at your teeth, too!” Sure, I have birthed two children naturally with not so much as a Tylenol in my system, but I could not bear the thought of a dentist drilling away at my teeth again. And oh, the shame of not only being a grown woman who cannot take care of her own teeth, but of also being a horrible mother who would sit by and allow her son’s baby teeth to rot out down to the gums! For weeks, each time my husband brought up the subject, I would break into a sweat, filled with paralyzing anxiety over the coming doom.
Alas, I was challenged by God’s Word that my anxiety was not from Him. These anxious feelings were actually seeds of mistrust and doubt, thoughts that my loving Father did not concern Himself in such matters as teeth and dentist drills.
So, convicted, I prayed a desperate prayer that went something like this: God, PLEASE help us find a nice dentist! Help Braden’s cavity to not be too deep! I pray that you would allow these ugly gaps in my teeth to be harmless, and I pray that this nice dentist you send will be able to take care of both of our teeth quickly and painlessly! Amen.
Very soon after I prayed this desperate prayer, a friend recommended a dentist in a nearby city—one that was very patient and good with children. I was still a bit apprehensive, but I resigned to let my husband schedule an appointment. We made the hour-and-a-half drive, and amazingly, that dread and fear had diminished substantially. Was this trust that I was experiencing?! I was filled with assurance that God had heard, and that He would certainly give grace sufficient to stop dental anxiety in its tracks. We entered the humble office of Dr. Jenny, located in a side room of her home. When beckoned, Braden lay back in the dentist chair, his eyes wide and scared. He pleaded for me to go first, so I traded places with him and laid back in the chair myself. My heart trembled a bit, the anxiety raising its ugly head again. Thankfully, God reminded me that I had decided to trust—and besides, my son was watching, and I had to be brave for him.
Would you believe that half an hour later, we walked out of that office with my gaps filled in beautifully and Braden’s large cavity filled, with another cavity temporarily filled (to be finished on our next visit)? My heart sang. Not a single Novocain shot, and we both had sat bravely in the chair, drills and all, and had survived the dentist’s hand, our dignity and smiles intact—and it only cost us $21.00.
I have always been taught that God numbers the hairs on our head, but I am relishing in that fact today in a new light. He knows the teeth in my mouth. He notices. He cares. He provides. He knocks our socks off with His faithfulness. There is no thing too small for my infinitely BIG God.
You can be sure that if you ask Him, He will tell you without hesitation how many teeth are in your mouth, too!
Question to consider: How do “anxious feelings” that are “actually seeds of mistrust and doubt” manifest themselves in your life? How has your loving Father shown you that “He notices. He cares. He provides. He knocks our socks off with His faithfulness.”