By now, most Americans probably know that they should floss at least once a day My guess is that despite this knowledge few actually do (a quick Google research failed to pinpoint a number, but the infrequency of the practice is well-documented.) The reasons for this may be many but I think the overarching one is that its hard to see immediate, tangible benefits from running the waxed thread in between your teeth. Sure, there’s the occasional stuck piece of food that you are grateful to have removed, but other than that, its easy to dismiss as a regular ritual. Convincing yourself that its o.k. to skip it, “just this once” isn’t very hard to do.
The same mindset is also what often prods us to neglect those regular practices that our good for our Christian health. In fact we use some of the same excuses! “I don’t have time today”; “Missing just once isn’t going to hurt”, “Do I really have to do it EVERT day?” And the “logic” is the same too. Because we don’t always see immediate benefits for engaging in daily Bible reading, regular concentrated prayer, or church attendance we convince ourselves that it is alright to neglect the routine (or maybe not even establish the routine to begin with!) We take a haphazard approach and hope for the best.
What I’ve learned about flossing though is that the immediate benefits are rarely seen, but the long-run benefits are hard to dispute. I’ve also learned that there may be some pain and discomfort at first but over time, the health of my mouth is much improved and that I more easily recognize any failure to honor that commitment. The same is true for Christian disciplines. We may or may not see the fruits of our labors in the short-term, but in the long-run they are always made clear. Engaging in these God-honoring practices often reveals that which is hidden from view, just like flossing does for our teeth. And just like those people who regret there lack of proper dental hygiene when they have to gt their teeth removed, in the long-run we will either be grateful for the time we invested in the health of our Christian walk, or we will look be and wonderful why we didn’t take the few minutes to make a heavenly investment.
I hope that the next time I’m tempted to forsake my nightly flossing, I remember those pictures of mouths destroyed by plague and gum disease, and compare it to what I want my teeth to look like when I’m 80. In the same way, whenever I’m tempted to neglect my regular Christian practices, may I consider what I want my life to look like when I’m 80, and make the decision that in the long-run bares the most, and the best, fruit.