It’s finally over! After 2 years, 4 months and 11 days, my braces are finally off!
Unlike most people who had braces when they are in their teens, I waited considerably longer before having my teeth aligned. Even though I was told that it’d be around the two year mark for correction, I was convinced that the process would go more quickly (like 18 months) and certain it’d be fairly easy. My estimation was made based primarily on my daughter’s experience. Leia wore a wide assortment of torturous orthodontic appliances for over three years, and she hardly had any complaints at all. I figured that if a 9 year old could do it then so could I! And surely I’d be more faithful in following instructions that she was so that’d speed up the process, right? Wrong! What I didn’t know when I made that assessment was that the teeth of a preteen are much easier to move than those of an adult. Apparently, the older you get, the more your teeth cement in place and thus, requiring more effort and a lot more time to get them to move! Of course, they didn’t tell me this little factoid until I had already paid the money, had 4 teeth pulled, and the braces attached. And let me tell you, it was a very… long… painful… process! But now, after many uncomfortable months, I can finally see and enjoy the benefits of having my teeth in a healthier and more attractive position.
Spiritually speaking, a lot of people come to Christ and think that once their souls have been renewed by faith, the process of aligning themselves with God’s plan and desires will be fairly easy. But just as I discovered with my braces, when we compare ourselves to others, we can severely underestimate just how difficult and long the procedure can be. Children are usually soft and malleable, and therefore more easily shaped by the Spirit. But just as with my teeth, the older we are when we come to faith, the more cemented in place our attitudes and behaviors have often become. Therefore, even when we earnestly long to yield ourselves and our yearnings to be shifted into alignment with the teachings of scripture, we often find that it can be a protracted and painstaking process which requires a lot of effort and attention to restrict what we watch, where we go, and with whom we associate in a sincere effort to straighten our crooked desires. But by bracketing our environment and tightening control of our internal desires, eventually godly living that is pleasing to the Lord becomes the beautiful result.
However, once our hearts are in line with the Spirit, we can easily think the heavy work is done and fool ourselves into thinking that we can be free to live a less restrained lifestyle. But as anyone who’s had braces knows, consistently wearing an orthodontic retainer is crucial to maintaining the correction. And today’s modern recommendation for retainer wear is not for a few months or even a few years. It’s a lifetime requirement. The same is true in living the Christian life. Faithful discipline and adherence to the retainer of God’s Word ~for your entire lifetime~ is absolutely necessary to preserve the Holy Spirit’s work.
If we assume the alterations in attitude and behavior will be maintained on their own with little or no attention at all, we’ll soon discover that in a shockingly short time that without the ‘retainer’ of God’s Word to keep us from gravitating back toward the flesh, our thoughts and conduct will quickly shift back toward where they once were. Maybe that’s what Paul meant when he instructed each of us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12-13)
So no matter how long ago you came to faith, or when you voluntarily submitted to the God’s aligning process, pull out your Bible and begin today to faithfully “wear” your scriptural retainer. As you daily cooperate with the Spirit, your life will stay aligned so that for a lifetime you can show off the beauty of His work!
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17