I was 18 and I was sitting in the dentist’s office when the dentist said something I couldn’t accept: “Your wisdom teeth are coming in sideways and you need to have them removed.”
This was an insane thing in my mind. God gave me wisdom teeth. Surely He didn’t intend for them to be removed, like some medical rite of passage, before they had even showed up fully in my mouth. This was terribly “unnatural” and if I knew anything, I knew that natural was the way things ought to be.
I argued with the dentist.
The dentist explained, “If your wisdom teeth keep growing in at this angle, they will grow into the roots of the teeth next to them, and they will kill those teeth too.”
In that moment, in huge contrast to my own emotions of umbrage towards the dentist, I felt the peace of the Holy Spirit, as if the Spirit was gently indicating to me He agreed with what the dentist said. I couldn’t believe that either. Truth be told, I didn’t want to believe it. God was supposed to be on the side of natural things, not on the side of the medical establishment that wanted to unnaturally and invasively alter my body and remove my precious new teeth.
I left the dentist’s office having zero plans to see an oral surgeon and have these teeth removed.
Years later, my front teeth were all jammed together and twisted from the wisdom teeth pushing all my teeth into each other. A roommate tried to explain to me, in terms that to her were said so carefully but to me felt so rude, “You know, you’d be so pretty if only you’d get braces.” She didn’t know that my teeth had not always been like that, nor that there was a reason they were like that now.
Eventually I did get those wisdom teeth removed. The decade I had spent having “faith,” praying for my teeth to “align” and become straight, had only served to show me that there was such a thing as cause and effect after all, and spiritual things didn’t usually alter that reality.
And after my wisdom teeth were removed, I had to have another molar removed too. The pressure of the wisdom tooth up against it had caused it to absorb itself from the inside out, in something called, “spontaneous resorption.” I tried in vain to save the tooth first with a giant filling, then a root canal, but after a terrible abscess that was the worst pain in my life, that one had to come out too. Somehow the evil dentist had turned out to be more “right” than my wrongly placed “faith.”
I liked to think I was listening to the Holy Spirit. But I wasn’t. I still remember that moment when I actually encountered the Holy Spirit, and could have put my faith in the leading he was giving me to do the science thing. But I wasn’t ready, and made up a “faith” in what my own religious inclinations told me was right — a passion for what was “natural” over what was truly sensible.
I have more of these stories of learning hard truths from the effects my own foolish stubbornness, that have greatly shaped my journey. It seems the season to share. Stay tuned.
Update: Here is the next story in this series: Faith over Fear, part 2.