By the time I was in middle school, it was official: I needed braces. It was bad enough to need them and it was psychologically petrifying to need them but not be in a position to get them. Such was the case for me. I went through middle school and high school with tartar build-up, an overbite, some serious crowding.
The summer before I was scheduled to go off to college I pulled out a calculator, did the math, and realized that if I saved all the money I was on track to make at my summer job, I’d be able to finance my braces in full. That’s exactly what I did.
Eight teeth extractions and two years later, I went in for the removal of my braces. It was one of the happiest days of my life!
After the braces came the retainer. The orthodontist explained that I will need it to hold my teeth in their new positions. He said that it takes time for the bone and all the tissues around the teeth to reorganize and therefore it is necessary to use retainers until my bite stabilizes. I was instructed to wear it 24 hours a day for the first year, then at night every night thereafter. He cautioned me that if I do not follow these instructions, my teeth will gradually begin to shift back to their original position. “ORIGINAL POSITION?!” NEVER THAT! He needed not say anymore. There was no way I was going to allow my teeth to shift one iota in any direction!! I had lived too long with “shifted teeth” and spent too much of my own money to sit back and allow things to go back to the way they were!
Perhaps, you have something in your life you would hate to see go back to the way it was. We all know that teeth are not the only parts of us that could use some straightening followed by some retaining. God was certainly aware of this fact. That’s why He sent His son Jesus to die on a cross for our sins. When we accept His free gift of salvation and crown Him Lord of our lives, all the crowded, crooked, and stained aspects of us begin to better align with His will and perfect plan. By the grace of God and His awesome power at work in us we began to see and feel change happening. That sermon was exactly what you needed to hear. That loved one blessed you with a kind word or deed. That song was right on time. You are finally at peace and you like it!
But how do you retain it? How do you keep things from going back to the way they were?
Consider this: After salvation comes spiritual growth. Spiritual growth happens as we commit to daily devotions. I’m referring to the discipline of a Christian starting or ending the day with Bible reading and prayer. The purpose of this is to draw close to His heart, understand more about Him, obey His commands, and hold on to His promises.
It takes a lifetime for hearts and minds to be transformed as thoughts and lifestyles are reorganized. Sermons from the pulpit, songs from the praise team, and kind words from a neighbor can get us straight. But those blessings need to be followed by the daily retaining power of the Word of God. Only then will we be stabilized in our new positions.
Just as the doctor advised me to keep that retainer on my teeth, In Joshua 1:8, he advises us to “keep this Book of the Law . . . on [our] lips . . .”
If we don’t heed Joshua’s advice that gap of gossip will return, that overbite of bitterness will peak its head, and the stain of shame will steal our peace.
We spent way too many years out of fellowship with Him and He paid too much of a price with His own life for us to just sit back and allow things to go back to the way they were.
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