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FAITHFUL LIVING: Look for God daily to enrich your life

“OK, Megan. We’re ready for you. Come on back.”

The time had arrived for wisdom teeth to be removed from a mouth far too dainty to accommodate any more teeth, much less the four we had spotted on a panoramic X-ray.

I am not at all sure whether it was harder on my 16-year-old or me. But watching our oldest daughter walk back to the oral surgeon’s operating room for a surgery both her dad and I had experienced years before as 16-year-olds recreated a flood of memories for us both.

While Matt looked calm as a cucumber I felt a little nervous. Why? After all, she was not headed into a torture chamber and we had chosen a surgeon with years of experience. When I got to thinking about it, the surgery served almost as a rite of passage, for it is such a common experience for teenagers that talk of “happy gas” and stitches and swelling can be a rather bonding experience.

I worried a bit more about this daughter because she had never had any dental work on her teeth, having been blessed with regular check ups, trusty enamel and a habit of good dental care. How would she manage the shots and the tugging?

Yet I knew she needed to approach this life experience alone, for she would walk out of that surgical room with a new, internal understanding that she is far braver than she thought.

After nearly 17 years of parenting I have learned that I can talk to my children until I am blue in the face about how courageous I know they can be. My kids have come to expect that kind of support from me. But I am also learning that sometimes it is best for them to face age-appropriate new experiences on their own. If I hover too closely they conclude that my strength and encouragement has gotten them through the experience. This means I have, in effect, robbed them of an opportunity to grow in character.

When Megan slowly walked back into the waiting room some time later, with a crooked semi-smile and a dental assistant supporting one arm, we were bonded in a new way: We were wisdom teeth removal survivors!

I experienced that same sense of satisfaction as a child 35 years ago when I, too, walked to the dental chair alone. Only in my case it was a Saturday and Dr. Ashrow had been summoned by my near-hysterical mother. Her dinner party was scheduled to begin in two hours when I ran through the kitchen covering an injured mouth with one hand and holding pieces of both permanent front teeth in the other.

Upon learning that I had fallen forward while racing down the street on my brother’s steel-wheeled skateboard my mom grabbed the phone and Dad promptly nailed the skateboard to the ceiling of the garage.

My brother disowned me for a time. Dr. Ashrow focused on the heart of the matter: my most severely injured tooth needed to be protected and remain as untouched as possible. If I would be willing to wear a metal tooth cover he felt confident the roots would heal. After braces I could have both front teeth capped to match my other teeth.

I was nine years old and agreed to the plan. When I look back on pictures of myself, that huge silver tooth gleaming with every smile, I am surprised I was given the freedom to choose. I am equally surprised I chose that ugly metal cap. It was the best, but the hardest choice to make.

Over the years I heard every silver tooth joke. Yet, I grew instead of being hurt by the experience. I give credit to my parents who allowed the situation to be my main teacher but who encouraged me to look beyond the pettiness and insensitivity of some of the kids around me.

I also credit God, who showed me over time that good lessons — like compassion for others and less self-consciousness — resulted from my third grade tooth challenge.

The choice to incorporate faith backs up all the facts we Christians like to talk about. And it is essential, for if we forget to translate biblical facts into practical ways to approach and respond to daily challenges, faith seems meaningless. We rob ourselves and everyone else of the chance to experience God. To witness His movement. To discover His lessons for us. To savor our own growth.

Let’s look for God — His compassion, His lessons, His presence — i n the normal events of our lives this week. Let’s identify God, talk about Him and ask Him to move mightily that we will become stronger and wiser through it all.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

jbklope@hotmail.com

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