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Straightening Teeth and Priorities, and Patience in the Process

Laura Phelps
Catholic Bible study

For years my daughter begged for braces. No denying, her teeth are all sorts of crazy, but the cost of braces is even crazier.  Finally giving in, we met with the orthodontist where it was explained that in order for Annie to obtain her dream smile, she would need to do two things. 1. Wear braces. 2. Wear the Herbst Appliance. What is the Herbst Appliance you ask? Well, imagine every piece of metal and hardware in the entire world, and then put it all in my fifteen-year-old’s mouth. Because there is so much metal involved, the doctor suggested Annie do braces first, then once removed, put on the Herbst. He said, “You can do both at once if you are in a rush to get this done. It will be uncomfortable and take weeks to get used to. But you will get your perfect smile faster. It’s up to you.”

Given the option – fast results or patiently waiting it out – take a shot at what my teenager chose…

Yesterday, the Herbst went on, on top of the braces. By the time this blog post is published, I am not confident that anyone within a five-foot radius of Annie will still be alive. She is not happy, folks.  And do you want to know the worst part of all of this is? It’s not Annie’s mood that’s the problem. It’s not even the cost. It is me. It’s my reaction to her reaction. As she went on and on about her looks and appearance, with zero gratitude for the privilege of dental care and a mother who had to sell her kidney to afford it, I unlovingly stood in her bedroom doorway reminding her, “This is what you wanted. So, you can be patient and get used to it, and quit being so vain….or tomorrow we can go and get it taken out of your mouth.”

It is ironic, isn’t it? We grumble about children today; how they wait for nothing and only know instant gratification, and I have to wonder… am I any different? Sure, maybe my teenager doesn’t have patience with this process… but guess what? Neither do I. As quick as she was to choose the shortest road to the fastest results, I am just as quick to pull the stupid metal out of her mouth with my own teeth simply to put an end to her vanity-filled complaints.  Let’s face it. Waiting is hard, and there is a reason why patience is a virtue and none of this comes easy. And honestly? This isn’t even about my straightening my daughter’s teeth. It’s about straightening priorities. And all of this takes time.

I am just going to say it. I am lacking the patience for my children to encounter Jesus Christ because deep down I fear that they never will. I am afraid that God will show up hours too late, like my sister on Thanksgiving who signs up to bring the appetizer and arrives as we are serving dessert. And so I preach, and I throw Scripture at them, and I stand in their bedroom doorway in utter frustration, because for some unknown reason I have decided that I am their Savior and turning their hearts towards Christ is something that can only be accomplished by my hand.

Welcome to my ugly.

I am not proud of it, but here is the thing: I can do something about it.

If your lack of patience for a loved one’s journey to the Lord tends to stomp on newly planted seeds, here are three things you can do:

  1. Recall your own faith journey. I did not encounter Christ until my forties, so why I am panicked when my teens and young adult children show little to no interest in God? Do I wish I had come to my senses sooner? YES. But then I catch myself. Regret is useless, and we really have to resist the urge to rewrite our stories. Including our children’s. Even though I struggle to believe it, deep down I know that God’s timing is good. It helps me to pray with Habakkuk 2:3 (CEV), “At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting- it will happen!”
  2. Meditate on the fifth mystery of the Joyful Mysteries: Finding Jesus In the Temple. Ask for the grace to carry out difficult tasks with patience, praying, ”Jesus, loving and patient, live in me.” Even when love is our motive, all too often, our frustration with our circumstances makes our good intentions look more like judgement. The Scripture verse that reminds me to be patient because of love comes from Genesis 29:20 (NAB), “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her.”
  3. At this year’s Leader’s Gathering, Lisa Brenninkmeyer sent us off with the most powerful “I Declare” Scriptural prayer to be prayed over our loved ones. I have had this prayer copied and laminated. You can find it here and do the same.

Praying today that our patience with His plan grows deeper roots than the weeds of fear and control. And I really pray that Annie doesn’t need to get on an airplane anytime soon, because honestly…that girl will never make it through the metal detector.

In patience and love,

Laura

Bible Study