I stared at the ceiling awaiting the results as Dr. Assad reviewed the x-rays. Having upped my dental-care game over the past few years, I was sure this long silence meant good news!
My joy turned to near-tears, though, as he began to list off tooth after tooth that was in need of repair. And he just kept going. At the end, he stood up and said, “I’m not even sure what to tell you. Your gums are receding, your crowns are falling apart, and you have several new areas of decay. You’re going to need a lot of work done.”
After surviving the initial emotional meltdown, I got myself together and did what I always do in these situations: Pulled out my phone and asked my trusted old pal Google for help: “What have I been doing wrong?”
Of course the answers are the same as always – brush two to three times a day (✔), floss (✔), fluoride rinse (✔), and stay away from certain foods (working on it…). But as I read through the lists of foods to avoid, one of them caught me by surprise: Raisins?
According to the American Dental Association, “Sticky foods are your mouth’s worst nightmare” and “When it comes to picking healthy snacks, many people put dried fruit at the top of the list. But many dried fruits are sticky. Sticky foods can damage your teeth since they tend to stay on the teeth longer than other types of food.”*
Who knew, right? All this time I thought I was making a “healthier” choice and I may have been causing just as much damage!
I had a similar reaction when I read Hosea 2 a few months ago:
And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 2:1)
Wait, they loved what? “Cakes of raisins”? I mean, I like a few raisins every once in a while, but I’m not sure I would ever find a whole ‘cake’ of them to be a temptation! Why was this even mentioned?
If you’ve read much of the Old Testament, you know that God’s number one desire for His people was that they would simply worship Him – and then continue to keep Him first in their hearts. Unfortunately, the worship of other gods – often more dramatic and sensuous – proved to be a perpetual source of temptation for them.
Hosea was a messenger sent by God to His people during a time of crisis. Though they had once been a prosperous kingdom, “the more they increased, the more they sinned” (Hosea 4:7) – and their repeated habits of trusting in their own way (10:13) and giving God ‘lip-service’ while giving their hearts to idols (10:4-5) – eventually led to their destruction.
When God instructed Hosea to marry the wayward and adulterous Gomer, He was giving the people an example of His deep love for them – even though they preferred ‘cakes of raisins’ over Him. Of course, it wasn’t the ‘cakes’ themselves that were the problem, there are plenty of references to them being used as everyday food throughout the Bible. The problem was what they represented: the self-indulgence of idol worship.
To God, it wasn’t so much their sin that was the problem, but their love for their sin. They may have occasionally repented and asked for forgiveness, but in the end they still let the ‘cakes of raisins’ stick around. In doing so, they were revealing the condition of their hearts and what they truly loved – which wasn’t God.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”. Sin, like raisins, has a way of “clinging” to us and preventing us from “running the race” as a follower of Jesus. We know that God loves us deeply because He gave His Son so that we could be forgiven and free! But when it comes down to it, we tend to let our sin ‘stick’ around longer than we need to.
For many of us, we let the guilt and shame linger – there’s something about beating ourselves up over our mistakes that makes us think we’ll somehow feel better about them. Some of us cling to rules and ‘trying harder’ – we know we’ve messed up and we don’t want to do it again, so we obsess over sin-prevention. The rest of us get stuck in defeat – using excuses like “This is just who I am” or “It’s not really that bad”.
The thing is that when we turn our focus to the punishment we feel we deserve, we’re no longer worshipping the One who already took the punishment for us. And when we obsess over anything, even sin-prevention, it can easily become the winner of our hearts. Even in resigning to defeat, we’re making the sin what we cherish. We may think we’re making the healthier choice, but God wants so much more for us!
There’s not much I can do about my teeth – my genes have pretty much doomed me to a mouth full of fillings (although this raisin-avoidance thing shouldn’t be too difficult!). But there is something I can do about my sin – I can admit it, receive the forgiveness, and move on. I will slip up and, in moments of weakness, choose self-indulgence, but I also have the choice to not let those moments stick around and drag me down.
Hebrews 9:14 reminds us that “the blood of Christ” has been offered in order to “purify our conscience” so that we can “serve the living God”. As long as we’re still humans living on this planet, we’re going to sin, but the whole point of being saved by Christ is that we’re free. Our sin no longer gets to hold us back from living the full life God has for us!
What sin are you allowing to ‘cling’ to your heart today? Don’t let it stick around! Call it what it is, receive the forgiveness, and let’s get moving!
*American Dental Association (http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips/9-Foods-That-Damage-Your-Teeth)