It was an exciting weekend in the DeLaune household; Emmaline lost her first tooth! Her bottom middle one has been loose for almost a month and several of her friends in her Kindergarten class had already lost a few of theirs. For weeks she has been eating extra apples and wiggling it at night. We even took her to see one of the Pediatric Dentistry Nurses to check and see how long we should wait before helping her pull it out. But over the last week, it became apparent that it was time because her new tooth had grown in behind it and was already showing. While there was fear and a little bit of pain behind this first new experience, she bravely, with the help of her Daddy, pulled it out on Sunday afternoon. She was so proud of herself for this milestone and that she had had the guts to do it. While Sunday night was filled with conversations about what the tooth fairy might leave for her and what she should do if she wakes up and meets the tooth fairy, my Mommy/Pastor brain was processing the pain and joy of change.
God created our bodies to naturally move and shift during transition. Sometimes it is a little painful, with a tiny bit of blood like when we lose our baby teeth, but the losing of one thing makes room for something bigger, better and more permanent. Our bodies were created as we grow to embrace biological change, movement, shifting and new beginnings and while scary at first, they open us up to opportunities and situations that are bigger, better and more permanent. But it doesn’t just happen in our bodies, but as spiritual beings, we are all changing hopefully to look more like Jesus. In order to do that, things have to fall out or be removed so that the permanent foundations of our faith, spiritual practice and deep relationships can move on to being Bigger and Better.
Are you following my logical here? I am comparing the loss of teeth to the loss of hurts or habits or sin or brokenness that is painful at first to let go of, but makes room for something much more sustainable in the long run. It is the same comparison the Apostle Paul makes about Christian maturity and moving from spiritual milk to solid food in his writings. As we grow from a young faith, to a mature faith, we would call that Sanctification, we are growing into our permanent and strong selves that reflect the light of Christ.
Right after the famous 1 Corinthians 13 text that is often read at weddings, the Apostle Paul finishes his chapter with verses 8-13.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
If you would, take a moment to reflect on how you have “put away childish things” as Paul writes. Like Emmaline’s loss of her first tooth, the pain of losing it actually made room for good to come next, for maturity to continue. But we all have something. Some of us have experienced more loss than others over the last few years and so I invite you to reflect on that and name the pain associated with it. Name the discomfort in losing your routine, your comfort, your friendships, your freedoms, your expectations or maybe even your health over these last few years. Then after you name that thing or relationship, lament to God about how it felt to lose something you held so dear. Cry out to God, like we see over and over again in the Psalms and be honest about how much it hurt to get used to something only to see it disappear. It isn’t selfish or childish to name these feelings aloud, it is simply HUMAN and God invites you to speak because God never ceases to listen.
Pause and wait in your lament. Sit in your discomfort. Rest in your honesty.
Then, as you slowly move out of your lament, turn your thoughts to the new space that has made room in your life for something BIGGER and BETTER. Like Emmaline’s new adult tooth, it was ready to come in and so it had to push that baby tooth out of the way. What good and natural thing now has space in your life and faith to grow? What is developing in you, now that something from your young faith has been let go of? Maybe it is how you have let go of people-pleasing and now focus more on pleasing God. Maybe it is spending less time trying to be perfect and more time resting in God. Maybe you let go of a toxic relationship or an abusive understanding of Scripture or an authoritarian view of the faith? Wherever you have seen the loss and the letting go, give thanks because God is always up to something GOOD.