Recently, I went to see a periodontist. A what-o-dontist?! A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the supporting structures of the teeth, mainly gums. I’m pretty sure once the regular guy can no longer handle my problems, it means I’m getting old.
At the end of the examination, the very nice periodontist said something interesting: “I see women like you all the time. You brush too hard. You want your teeth to be really clean and your gums suffer for it.”
I laughed nervously.
Then I thought to myself, “Did he just say that I have an obsession with brushing my teeth? Really?” Then I said out loud, “Wait, are you saying that only women have this problem with obsessive teeth cleaning?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t generally see men with this sort of problem.”
Well! How dare he? But then, ever so slowly, pictures of my toothbrush began to appear in my mind with bristles splayed in every direction. It was like looking through a ViewMaster, one of my favorite toys as a kid. With each pull of the lever, the flimsy white disc turned and I saw slide after slide of my ragged toothbrush next to my husband’s pristine, bristles-all-in-a-neat-row toothbrush. Okay, maybe this periodontist is on to something.
Since he got to make a blanket statement (from experience, mind you), I will make one, too — I just won’t get paid $200/hr to say it. Why do we, as women, obsess so much? Why is it so hard to rest? Why do we want our houses so clean and brush our teeth so hard? I’ve heard countless women say things like: “I can’t just sit down and watch a movie. It feels like a waste of my time.” We have a hard time doing nothing. Furthermore, most of the people I know who don’t sleep well are … women. Why can’t we just relax?
Sure, society places many cultural impositions on women. Don’t get me started. We’re supposed to weigh 90 pounds to look good in our clothes. When you have a baby, it should only take you 6 weeks to regain a perfect 6-pack a la Sarah Jessica Parker (I never had one in the first place). Our houses should look like the ones on the cover of Better Homes and Garden. And, lest we forget, we define our liberation as women by our sexual prowess (I started, didn’t I?).
Society hands us a script for what women should be, but we have a choice to be defined by that script or not. In Christ, we don’t have to prove ourselves through superficial means to be worth something. If your house is messy, great. Clean it up once in a while so your family can function, but it’s not a reflection of your worth. There are countless times I walk past the stairs with all of its little-kid-piles to be put away and feel intense feelings of failure. Really? Is that the hill I’m going to die on?
The truth is I could have perfect stairs and be a size 2, but I could be forsaking what’s ultimately worth something: the people around me — my four beauties, my husband, my neighbors, and my community. The script that we live by will affect our relationships.
So, how do we begin to define ourselves by a different script? Consider the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. She’s had five husbands, she’s shunned by her community, and furthermore, Jewish men rarely socialized with women, certainly not with a Samaritan woman. But Jesus, the king of breaking down social/cultural/economic/you-name-it barriers, approached her and talked to her. He could see into her heart, that she defined herself by the love of a man.
Jesus tells her, “Everyone who drinks this [well] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give Him will never thirst.” The script she’s living by isn’t the script Jesus offers her. He offers her true satisfaction that comes only from knowing Him–a freedom from seeking acceptance from things that are only passing away.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for me to learn this truth. I’m not there yet. The call of the skinny, long-legged, fake blonde supermodel battles for my heart. Yet there will never be rest in that call — only an insatiable desire for more. But in Jesus, I have eternal acceptance in Christ always.
I’m loved, forgiven, chosen, adopted, redeemed, accepted, God’s possession, and for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1). That’s the script God wants you and me to rest in each day.
So, go relax. Watch a movie. Laugh with your kids. Go out on a romantic date with your husband. Leave dishes in the sink sometimes. Play kickball. And for goodness’ sake, be kind to your toothbrush.