When Dan was 10 he face-planted on a concrete floor and broke off his front teeth. They went through his tongue and into his lip like pointed scissors, and as I hustled him to the sink, the dripping blood did not bother me. I'm good in emergencies. I keep my head on straight, foresee further complications, know who to contact and where to go for help.
But not today.
I cupped water to wash away the copious amount of blood pouring down his shirtfront, and finally got a good look. His front adult teeth were broken off at angles, the shards that were left poking from the gum resembling Dracula's fangs. I will spare you the rest of the details.
My vision tunneled, my knees buckled, and I wound up laying on the cold church kitchen floor as someone else took my child and his gory towels to the ER because I was inches away from passing out. It ranks as one of the very worst days of my whole life.
Thankfully, that's a small category. We're young yet, have not experienced many of the ordinary sorrows or unexpected tragedies that life can hold. My pool of "worst days" is small. But if I had to categorize it, the Day Dan Lost His Front Teeth would be right up there.
As a mom, it was a truly hideous experience. As a child--THIS child--it was life-altering, with consequences and ramifications that will follow him his whole life.
You see, Dan and Natalie have Sensory Processing Disorder, a condition that means their bodies don't always interpret signals and sensations like a typical kid. No one knows exactly what causes SPD, but it can go two ways--under or over-reacting to signals, and God is His perfect wisdom has gifted our family with one of each! Natalie is under-sensitive, which causes specific problems from time to time. But for Dan, it's over-responsiveness, incredible anxiety, "fight-or-flight" responses to ordinary situations. And his number one symptom? Oral Defensiveness.
Of ALL the children in the world for this to happen to... the one who cannot bear the texture of ground beef, for whom every meal is a prickly, painful ordeal, who cannot open his lips when he sings in the school choir because of the way the air feels in his mouth... now is seated helplessly laid out in the dentist chair two hours later, his painful lips and tongue (and bruised nose and cheeks) enough by themselves, but his teeth, oh Lord, his teeth... excruciating.
Side note--did I mention that picture day at school was that next week? Because that is the way these things go.
Many moms experience the humiliation of a screaming, thrashing, out of control child at the dentist. If you think you know what we went through that day, magnify it by about ten and you're close to glimpsing what it was like. An hour in and I was at the end of my rope clinging to the frayed fibers. He was sobbing; I was sobbing; the hygienist was sobbing; I think even the grim-faced dentist was sobbing behind his mask. And we still had more to do. Every muscle in my body screamed as I crouched and hovered and held and held down. There was literally nothing to be done but to endure, to force him to be still and let them work as he cried and gagged and struggled and bled.
Friend, in utter desperation, I began to pray aloud.
Very loudly, in fact, so my child could hear me over the monstrous emotions that gripped his body. I had lost all pride at that point. I did not care who heard or what they thought. I just cried unto the Lord.
The dentist and hygienist got very quiet.
I ran out of everything I could think to pray over the situation, so I repeated it, over and over, and over again. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Father, oh, please, please help us. Please come to us. Please calm us. Please help us with this pain. Please help us get through this. Please show us Your love. Please help Daniel be still. We need help, God. We need help right now!
On and on and on.
And HE CAME.
He showed up--because He was there all along. Because He had never left us, from the second Dan hit that floor, to the ER, to the long drive back to our town and all the hours we spent at the dentist that day and the days afterward. He was there, with mercy and grace for that terrible day, waiting for the asking.
Dan calmed (sheer exhaustion? maybe). I calmed. The professionals worked together in stunned silence to finish their task. That little room in the office was filled with His Presence. My voice was hoarse the next day as I prayed on and on through that final hour, Dan's white-knuckled grip bruising both our hands as his clung to his mother and we both clung to our Father.
Our good, good Father, Who showed up and showed Himself real.
Matthew 10:29 shares with us the incredible knowledge and care of the Creator over even the tiniest aspect of His Creation. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." My son, my little baby sparrow, fallen from his nest. My big boy, so tiny in the chair. Does Jesus care about broken front teeth? Does He care that His child is beside herself? That the knot at the end of the rope is almost undone? Oh yes, He cares! I know He cares.
My friend, I share this experience not so you will think I am some fabulous prayer warrior or that prayer is a good-luck charm that will get you out of your next pickle. I share this as a testimony that my God is REAL. And that a personal relationship with Him means I am not only free to call on Him for strength but that I am encouraged to do it--commanded to accept my own helplessness and cry out to my Father not only for my eternal salvation but also for strength for every day living. To pray is to acknowledge the wisdom of a God that sometimes allows us to be in situations where we have no choice but to understand, deep in our very bones, that any sense of control is sheer prideful delusion.
I never look back on that day without a shudder for the agony we both went through. But it's always followed by the quiet sense of awe as I am reminded of how we got through it, my boy, myself, and our Father, Who met us in that moment.
Heavenly Father, sometime in the future we will all find ourselves in a place of unbearable grief, unendurable anguish, or utter hopelessness, and we will realize there is no one there with us in that moment except for You. And You will be enough. How sweet is that grace. Even the little birds trust in the Father's care and bow to His will; help us to rest and be at peace.