Yesterday, I went to the Orthodontist to get my braces put on. Yes, at 61 years old, I walked right into that waiting room, the one with the play area, the teen video station and the colorful aquarium. The mothers, waiting for their adolescents to return from treatment, cast inquiring looks. But I didn’t make eye contact.
In one way, my braces make me look younger, say about 13. But in another way, they actually accentuate my age. My now pubescent-looking mouth looks photoshopped onto a senior-looking face. When I smile, I look like an old Buick, but with a shiny new grille – an odd discontinuity.
I knew this might happen, but I chose to get the braces anyway. And although it has only been one day, I am glad that I did. Here’s why.
There are things you can change and there are things that you can’t. That’s common knowledge; I have known it for a long time. And I’ve also known that ‘crowded teeth’ are definitely in the category of ‘things that you can change’. But despite my orthodontic knowledge, I’ve avoided making a decision about my teeth.
Even though I’ve been self-conscious, even though I’ve noticed (in family photos) my rather goofy attempt to ‘smile-without-smiling,’ I’ve hesitated. I haven’t made a decision; yes or no. For all this time, my feet firmly in mid-air, I’ve prevaricated. And the years rolled by – 40+ of them.
Now my point isn’t that there is an obvious correct decision. I could have said, “You know I’ll just do something about this and get the braces.” Or, “You know, my smile isn’t ideal, but I’m going to deal with it and move onto other priorities.” Either decision is somewhere in the mainstream of OKness (my opinion). But the point is, I wouldn’t decide.
I have so often experienced ‘deciding’ as a burden. I shrink from the weight of freedom; I fear responsibility. But this is really sad because in reality, ‘deciding’ is a privilege. Choice is a gift from God; one of the first gifts. Embracing this gift is an act of worship and trust. It is an act of receiving life and joining in. In deciding, we plunge into both the categories I mentioned before. First, there are some things that can be changed; the gift of choice allows us to find ways to make those parts of our lives more ordered and more beautiful. Second, there are things that cannot be changed; the gift of choice allows us to respond to those things with appropriate awe or sadness.
Rather than playing it safe, hiding behind indecision, choice allows me to fully live. I may decide that braces were a waste of money and effort, well then OK: lesson learned, wisdom gained. Or I may decide that braces were much better late than never – then I’ll grin and smile in the photos with my grandchildren. But either way, I decided to make the choice and live with it. I can now be sad or glad – rather than wallow in the muddled middle.
So I am happy that I walked BOLDLY into that waiting room and hid behind a magazine. I’m glad I finally decided. Consciously deciding instead of subconsciously non-deciding is a better way to live. In fact, deciding is the only way to truly live.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both with individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.