The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
It’s a prayer I’ve been praying for my kids for a few years now. The aim of my role as their mother, and one of their main disciplers, is that a passionate love and pursuit for God would develop under my care and guidance. What I love about this verse is that it tells me very specifically how this love will develop, that it will flow from three distinct areas: out of a heart that is pure, from a clean conscience before the Father, and from a sincere faith of their own in Jesus. So, I pray these three things over my two kids often, asking God to grant each of them specifically, even in their young hearts. I pray them in faith believing in God’s power to accomplish it, but not always seeing evidence of things happening.
And then circumstances happen in our lives, in our children’s lives, things we wouldn’t choose for them but they’re happening nonetheless. I don’t know about you, but when this happens I usually react from a place of frustration and disappointment that they’re having to walk through this and try to do whatever I can to fix it or end it as quickly and painlessly as possible. This is our job as parents, right? Yeah, I thought so too. But recently God has been showing me how He’s using these very circumstances to answer my prayers. And this thing, this frustrating and painful thing, that I so wish was different is actually the agent He is using to grow this love for Him in their hearts.
It’s a divine gift when God gives us His perspective on the circumstances of our lives and can absolutely change the course of how we walk in it, if we’ll let it. Now, I have two choices. I get to decide whether I’m going to continue to bear the agent in frustration, quite possibly short-changing the potential growth of my child…OR, I can decide to praise Him in the midst of the agent, align my perspective with His, and pray for His work to be done in their hearts through the circumstance. I was recently at this decision point, and I wanted to share it with you.
I hate the dentist.
I know that’s a strong word, and some people have a problem with it. So, how about loathe? I loathe visiting the dentist office. I added “office” because my loathing isn’t just about the dentist, him or herself, but really about the whole experience that is a dental visit. More specifically a pediatric dental visit.
It starts with the comedy of this agreement between both parties of having an actual appointment time. Where the patient is expected to show up on time but the office staff, dental staff, and dentists are held to no accountability of timeliness whatsoever. The other part I thoroughly enjoy is that although their office only holds 5 exams rooms, there are no less than 178 people sitting in the waiting room as you check in. Makes perfect sense.
Another big reason for my vehement dislike for these visits is because of what it brings out in me–carnal Darci. I just kind of lose it. I struggle with keeping my mouth shut when I witness what seems to be a general disregard for people and their time, in any profession. When the 30-minute wait turns into an hour I quietly but hotly lay down my cloak of patience and sober-mindedness, and pick up several perfectly crafted barbs about competency and efficiency, all just dripping in sarcasm. I realize it may not be my place to sweetly offer to “come back there and help teach them how to properly use their scheduling system,” but it feels helpful at the time…at least to me.
I say all this to help you understand my disposition as I recently took my daughter in to get two fillings. I was already speaking words of disgust and frustration to my husband about our impending visit while simultaneously telling him what was available in the fridge for dinner over the next three nights since that’s most likely how long we would be gone.
I recognized on our drive there that my pre-determined irritation was helping no one, especially me and my ability to support Aven in dealing with her own nerves. So, I asked Jesus to fill me with an extra measure of grace for what we were about to walk into, and then I put His words of life on my tongue and a smile on my face.
We lucked out with only a 28-minute wait time before she was called and we were taken back to where they promptly got started. Aven was thrilled to have the laughing gas and she took her shots like a pro, but as soon as the drilling started everything went downhill fast in cries of pain. The female dentist was very patient and considerate. She did another round of numbing, and said to give it a while to take effect, but that if it was still too painful then they would have to send Aven to a children’s hospital to have it done there and left the room. Gulp.
What I haven’t told you up to this point is my biggest reason for hating the dentist. See, my kids have always been healthy. Aside from the expected scrapes and stitches, their health has been a blessing that I try not to take for granted. However, their teeth are a different story. It’s the one area that is truly unhealthy.Their teeth, and all the difficulties associated with them, are the agent He’s using to answer my prayers.
Each visit, no matter how routine, means pain for both of my kids. Cleanings, sealants, really any kind of treatment, cause them both pain that’s hard to manage because they have a condition which brings along hypersensitivity to heat, cold, and other extreme stimuli. So the water and air tools, and drills that push air that are used in their offices can quickly hit a nerve causing intense pain that most dental technicians aren’t equipped to handle. This means that usually any kind of visit to the dentist is going to be painful for them and stressful for me, hence the loathing.
So, it’s just Aven and I in the room as they are waiting for her mouth to numb completely and she’s looking to me for how we’re going to get her through this. And I’m thinking, “Seriously, we’re going to have to get her fillings done at the children’s hospital!?! Help us Lord!” I did the only thing I could think of and we bowed our heads there in her room and took our very immediate need to the throne of grace where He says we can find grace to help in time of need. I asked Jesus to make her mouth the numbest mouth that was ever in that exam room. We asked Him to give Aven courage to endure whatever pain was ahead, knowing it was ultimately for her health and benefit. Finally, we asked Jesus to make the dentist quick yet precise, and to guide her hands. And you know what, that is exactly what happened. It wasn’t painless or without stress or tears over the next hour and a half, but I got to witness the Spirit strengthen the heart of my daughter to endure the discomfort because she knew it was for her good.
We celebrated her courage on the way home and I asked her how she was able to do it. She said that after we prayed she knew Jesus was going to help because every time we’ve asked Him for help for her teeth He’s always answered in some way. She said it with full confidence like it was the natural conclusion.
It was later that night after the stress of the day had subsided that God brought it all into focus for me and gave me His perspective. He allowed me to see that He’s heard my prayers that He would give Aven a sincere faith of her own, an experience of Jesus that is her own, about His love and faithfulness to her directly. And all along he’s been using this difficulty with her teeth as the agent to give her experiences of Himself. My husband and I can do everything in our power to support and help her, but it’s still her road to walk. It is her pain, her difficulty, her need, and He keeps showing up for her and that has taken root in her heart…”He loves me, not just my parents, and He cares about my smallest needs. I can trust Him.” The sincere faith of a child–answered prayer.
The perspective of this mother and the dentist has shifted. While I’m still very thankful that there are months of recovery time (my own emotional recovery) in between each visit, I’m going to do my best to milk this agent for all its spiritual worth in both of their lives. I cannot remove it, and God has not seen fit to heal it, so I’m going to look for every opportunity we’re given through it to point them both to the all-sufficiency of Jesus. He is their’s and everything they need can be found in Him.
So, now I’m praying with new perspective and I’m on the lookout to recognize new agents, in their lives and in mine. This aim of love that I have, for them and for me, it doesn’t come easy, but I’m slowly learning that whatever comes to produce a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith is for our good and it’s worth experiencing more of Him.