I know it’s wrong, but I really envy my husband. He’s a dentist and everyday he gets to help people. What he does isn’t like what I do—he’s not washing another load of clothes, grocery shopping, correcting someone’s 1000-word essay, or delivering that same someone, or their sibling, to piano/tennis/guitar/martial arts lessons (again).
He tells me—all the time—that my job is really important, and I get it. I know what he means. I do the job that lets everyone else pursue their purpose. To paraphrase the theme song from an old chick-flick, “I am the wind beneath their wings.” But doing the same mundane things, day in and day out, can feel very purposeless. Some days I find myself longing for more, for a different kind of work.
There are jobs that give you the opportunity to make great changes in someone else’s life.
Sometimes my hubby rescues a patient from tooth pain that has been keeping them awake at night. Other times he gives them the opportunity to eat normally, for the first time in years. His work can relieve debilitating headaches or facial pain. He has even had the opportunity to diagnose other disorders like diabetes, fibromyalgia, sleep apnea, and oral cancer.
Did you know that “an estimated 164 million work hours are lost each year due to oral disease”? (ADA.org) That’s a lot of oral disease! Many people dread going to the dentist, but when you really need one, you are thankful to find a good one, like my husband.
When he finishes restoring someone’s smile, Scott likes to take an “after” picture that can be compared to the one taken before treatment. The picture at the top of this post is from a case that he completed while he was still in the Air Force. The patient had some congenitally missing lateral incisors (two of her front teeth had never formed). She’d had big gaps in the front of her mouth for her whole life. Until he placed a bridge to hold the crowns that he’d stained to perfectly and naturally match her other teeth, she had never had a normal smile.
For Scott, one of the most rewarding tasks he can do is teaching someone how to smile. Some people have hidden their teeth for most of their lives. When they try to smile, their lips won’t part or they cover their mouths with their hands. When people have lived like that, ashamed of their appearance, for so long, they don’t know what it feels like to smile naturally. He has to show them, while they hold a hand mirror, how to work their facial muscles and part their lips to form a smile. What a profound privilege—to teach someone how to smile.
How many of us need a different kind of smile restoration?
Is your smile broken? Jesus is called the Great Physician, but in some ways He is very much like a dentist. In our hearts, He removes decay, restores function, and creates beauty. Sometimes He has to teach us how to smile. And like a dentist, Jesus does custom work. He doesn’t make one-size-fits-all smiles. In the same way that no two mouths are exactly alike, no two people are exactly alike. We each need the personal and individualized approach of Jesus, who said:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Do you feel like you’ve lost your smile? Is heartache keeping you awake at night? Are you stuck in the middle place, waiting for restoration? Remember that Jesus is always working in the middle, for our good, and remember that He’s a finisher (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 12:2). He will accomplish what He has set out to do, in us, in His time. Jesus is God’s promise to love us, come to life.
Jesus is there with you, right now, in the middle.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting…
Psalm 138:7-8, NASB