What the dentist taught me

I never thought I’d give up flossing for Lent.

Likely the result of a childhood spent with mouth full of taffy and safely distanced from a tooth brush, for my adult life I’ve been aggressive about oral hygiene. One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received was a floss dispenser through which my sister Emma drilled a hole, enabling me to attach it to my car keys and ensuring that no corn kernel or broccoli sprout would ever again catch me unprepared.

About a month ago, after a minor dental procedure, I heard words I thought were taboo in the dental community: “You cannot brush or floss for 3 months.”

My initial thoughts surprised me. What freedom! No longer a slave to Crest or Oral-B Glide! Imagine what I shall do with the reclaimed time! The extra moments I shall linger over breakfast and sci-fi pages I will squeeze in at night!

24 hours later, running my tongue over gummy enamel and remembering fondly the post-floss itch–a pleasant reminder of a potential nidus of infection scoured away–the daily 5 minutes redeemed by my dental ban no longer seemed so luxurious.


Me with (then) medical student Caroline, a toothsome picture! (Tenwek, Sept 2015)

Every day since I have thought about flossing. I spend more time thinking about flossing than I used to spend flossing.

And this makes me wonder. Do I feel this same loss when I go a day without spending time in the Word? Or spending time in prayer?

While discerning God’s will for certain decisions can seem murky, there are a few things God plainly calls us to make routine. We are to pray and spend time in the Word. We are told to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18) and we’re told that blessed is the man whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). One of the most frequently sung songs in our church lays it out: “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” These things should happen as naturally as brushing our teeth.

I’m hoping my oral hygiene is laying a foundation for well-toothed old age. Of course, this is trivial when compared to the foundation we lay for the kingdom with daily prayer and time spent in the Word.

The way to make something routine is to start doing it! If you’re not already doing so, I encourage you to set aside time–even if it’s only five minutes to begin with–each day to pray and to read the Bible. I also encourage you to let your children see you doing this and to help them in establishing their own routine.

As we prepare to move to Kenya this fall, I’m more aware then ever of the importance of laying this foundation upon which we pray God will work to build His kingdom.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.

I Thessalonians 5:16-17


2 thoughts on “What the dentist taught me

  1. Val. What a great story and parallel. Cute. Such a smart lady and obviously very gifted writer/story teller. Wish we lived close. Love you lady. You’re in my thoughts n prayers as is your little family. Again….I’m so proud to know you but truly So So proud of You. What exactly will be both your rolls in Kenya? Hugs n kisses to that sweet lil lady of your’s. and love to you all. 🙏🏻💜


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