I just got braces. That might not be an odd occurrence if I was 13, but I’m 31. I’ve had them for a week now, but I just made friends with them today.
Braces are odd little things. They just sit there on my teeth, appearing to be doing absolutely nothing but causing me pain. Talking or eating with braces is like talking or eating with a mouthful of marbles—sharp, pointy marbles. In the first night they cut up my lower gum and lip, which led to much pain and swelling and made me look like I had just received a good pop in the mouth. Several days later, I’m still struggling with how to eat and talk and even sleep with these foreign objects in my mouth.
Up until my mid-teens my teeth were perfectly straight, except for a slight overbite as the result of sucking my thumb until I was 4 years old. (How embarrassing.) But, near the end of high school for some reason my teeth started shifting. The result was what appeared to be one front tooth longer than the other. I obsessed about it all through college and beyond. I hated to have pictures taken. I hated smiling. I lived with this for nearly 15 years before having the opportunity to do something about it.
Despite all the pain they are causing me, I was finally able to “make friends” with my braces when I finally realized that their purpose in my life is worth enduring whatever comes with the braces “package.” Like any friendship, you have to accept the other person for who they are, what they believe, what they might say or do (even if it hurts you), and, most importantly, you have to trust them.
Braces are the perfect metaphor for any major life change that results, in the short term, in pain and discomfort, but in the long run, a huge, new, beautiful smile on your face. In the short term, these little metal daggers are in my life causing me pain, making me feel really ugly, and preventing me from doing things I want to do (like talk normally). Yet, I know that their purpose is to eventually give me exactly what I want: a nice smile and more confidence.
The one major difference, of course, is that you usually know how long you’re going to have to wear the braces. My doctor said a year and a half, maybe less. I think it’s much easier to accept a temporary pain or discomfort when you know for a fact that it is truly temporary. But, I believe that’s where trust comes in again. We have to trust our good and merciful Heavenly Father that whatever pain we’re currently going through IS indeed only temporary and that it is meant entirely for our benefit. It doesn’t take the pain away, but it allows you to accept it, live with it, and even maybe make friends with it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.