This morning I took my daughter Anah to her regular 6-month appointment at the dentist. They took x-rays of her mouth, cleaned her teeth, gave her a fluoride treatment, and even did some extra work of putting sealant on her lower teeth. Then she got to pick out a prize from the “treasure chest” and get her picture taken for the “Zero Cavity Wall” of photos. It felt almost normal.
What a difference from 4 years ago when I took her to the same dentist shortly after arriving home with her from China! In that first visit, she fought against everything they tried to do–she was terrified of the x-ray machine, she had to be physically restrained in the dentist chair, and they did well just to get enough peeks into her mouth to see that she had cavities on just about every tooth. Even after all of that initial work was completed (under general anesthesia), she still fought and struggled with everything–especially x-rays–so I dreaded those trips to the dentist.
In time, however, she gradually has learned what to expect at the dentist’s office. I have tremendous respect and gratitude for her dentist and the hygienists and office staff there, who have been truly kind and gentle and gracious (and persistent!) with her through all of this. And so this morning, they all were commenting what a huge difference it was today compared to that first year or two.
As I drove home with her, I thought about how much I need the dentist’s perspective on all the other areas of Anah’s life too. The dentist only sees her 2 or 3 times in a year, so every time she sees her, she can see some significant change in Anah. I see Anah every day, and oftentimes the continuous daily battles and struggles eclipse any sense of progress or growth. It’s only when I step back and look at last year or 3 years ago that I can see that there really is improvement.
I suppose it is the same in my life too. When I fall again to the same sin or struggle that I’ve dealt with for years, it feels like I will never change. But if I can look beyond the daily battle to see the longer term perspective, then I can see that indeed God is at work changing and sanctifying my heart in Him. It’s just a slow process.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6