Winning through…Flossing? - Abiding in Hope: September 21, 2023

Winning through…Flossing? - Abiding in Hope: September 21, 2023

September 21, 2023

Winning through…Flossing?

By: Rev. Lee Roorda Schott

I hate flossing my teeth. I’m actually not crazy about anything teeth related. I don’t like going to the dentist. The one root canal I’ve had to endure felt like torture. 
I do appreciate teeth, however. Eating is a pleasurable activity, and teeth are pretty handy for that. And we know they don’t survive life’s full journey, for everyone. So there’s that.
For more than half my life, I didn’t floss my teeth. But as the years passed, bending under the accumulated weight of pro-flossing advice—including a dental hygienist who claimed she could tell, talking to a person, whether they flossed (yes, I know) (it was a “breath” thing)—I became a person who flosses.
And somehow, this routine of flossing before bedtime has become important in a way that doesn’t have to do with my teeth. I can sum it up this way: If I can make myself floss my teeth, evidently I’m doing OK.
There’s a kind of weird logic to this. I don’t attach any weight to brushing my teeth; of course I do that. But the extra energy of flossing: it’s a daily choice whose outcome means something. 
So, for instance, a few years ago when I was going through a hard and heavy time in my work, when everything was haywire and I had to just keep showing up and taking it, I realized one day that at least I was still flossing! It was a tiny victory in a time of so many losses. 
Looking back, it was something I could control. Night after night I was making a stand for Dental Health. Which somehow meant, also, Mental Health. In such a withering season I held onto that win like a glittering trophy, and kept noticing when, most days, I’d win that battle. You go, girl!
I was reminded of this experience in a recent conversation with persons in recovery from addiction. My church’s mission team has served lunch a few times at Full Circle Recovery Community Center’s Thursday “Lunch & Learn.” We set out a couple of dozen chicken salad sandwiches and some fruit, and then we stay for the program. This time the speaker invited all of us to talk about things that kept our recovery on track. I don’t exactly have an addiction recovery story, but I ventured my flossing experience. And around the room I saw nods and recognition. 
Persons in recovery know the power—the symbolic win—of managing to complete that thing that you’d rather not. That win might help you stay on track to not do the thing you know you have to stay away from.
I’m coming to notice other things that have this quality of signifying that I’m on the right track. Things like initiating that hard conversation, with the person that has stepped on my toes or hasn’t followed through on their commitments. Jesus told us in Matthew 18.15, Talk to them!” The writers of the best-selling Crucial Conversations add, “The sooner the better.” I’d rather not do it; conflict feels risky. But there’s real satisfaction when I do it anyway. There’s power in that harmony with the connectivity and honesty to which Jesus calls us. 
We could talk about exercise. Cleaning up the kitchen. Making time for that family member, or friend. Scheduling that doctor appointment, or oil change. A daily time with God. What are the things that signify to you: “I’m on the right track”; “That thing I just did feels congruent with who I am”? I want more of those things.
Did you notice how I buried that thing about time with God in that last paragraph? The way I stuck it in there is not dissimilar to how that time happens in my daily life. Not so much on a good day, when I can sit with God and my Bible when the day begins. But on too many days I’ll have an early meeting or something that I judge absolutely must be done instead, and now
I truly don’t feel about God the way I do about teeth! But I do seem to resist that centering time, more often than I want to admit. 
Sounds like a subject God will be taking up with me. And the sooner the better. As, day by day, my selfbecomes more and more congruent with the person God made me to be. Flossing and all.
The team at Full Circle (in Des Moines) would love to hear from your church or group if you’d be willing to serve or sponsor a Lunch & Learn meal, or explore similar options near you!

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