What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (NIV)
Most people who know me that know that I would rather do anything than go to the dentist. I am afraid of heights, yet I would gladly walk along the highest cliff to avoid the dentist’s chair. I love food, but would give up eating anything hot or cold rather than feel the sting of a temperature sensitive tooth. I will visit any doctor, take any x-ray, accept any shot, just don’t mess with my mouth. Yet, as I have aged, I am having more and more problems with my teeth, in particular a top molar. This one tooth has been drilled, filled and capped more than any other in my mouth. Much of the problem stems, not from poor hygiene, but my habit of clenching my teeth together. For some reason, that tooth is in just the right place to bear most of the force of my jaw. I have tried to learn over time to notice when I am doing it, but until the tooth starts hurting, the habit often goes unchecked. During the day, it is not as much problem as at night when sleep dulls my senses. Then, I wear a night guard over my teeth to protect them. I am the only person my dentist knows who has ever snapped a mouth guard in half while asleep. I woke up one night, spitting and sputtering and almost choked as a portion of the plastic device slid partway down my throat. Recently, that same molar started to hurt again. My life is not nearly as traumatic as it has been in the past, so I was surprised at the pain. Because the clenching seemed to be under control, I worked myself into a stew thinking that the tooth might be rotten. I convinced myself that I was headed for a root canal. I imagined more shots, more drilling, and more pain. When I have to go to the dentist, at least I have a good one who knows how to give painless shots. After enduring X-rays and more poking and prodding, he pronounced the tooth fine, just bruised. Even though I know better, even though I am not under as much stress these days, the clenching of my jaw is such a habit that I continue to do it. At night, when my body is resting, my mind is still churning and my teeth grind together. While relieved that I don’t need a root canal, I am perplexed at how to stop the problem. It is meaningless, not to mention, it is ruining my teeth! I am going to have to work on letting go, relaxing more and trusting God. I have to break the habit of worrying and fretting. My mouth may be saying, “God will take care of me,” but the message hasn’t gotten to my jaw much less my heart yet! I must retrain my brain to recall God’s faithfulness in the past. Even when I am asleep! My tooth deserves a rest!