Back in February, I started my Invisalign journey (click here if you’re not sure what Invisalign is) and I’m glad to say I’m almost at the end. Sometimes life gives you spiritual lessons that arise from the most unlikely circumstances and Invisalign is one such example. When I planned out my YouTube content, I intended to share these object lessons through bitesize videos… but the videos weren’t continued for reasons I won’t go into. Nevertheless, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some reflections that became apparent very early on in my Invisalign journey.
1. My real priorities
Invisalign is quite pricey and in choosing to invest money in this, I inadvertently chose not to invest money in other things. The same is true for how I spend my time.
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV)
One thing that I’ve heard a lot recently is that “you can have everything, but not at the same time.” Or that “you can do everything, but not at the same time.” The sentiment behind both statements is the need to prioritise effectively because trying to do everything at the same time will most likely lead to stress and burnout. Or, in a monetary sense, you’ll go broke! If you haven’t already, decide what your non-negotiables are. Devotion should be a non-negotiable. No matter how busy you get, always invest time in your relationship with God.
There aren’t enough hours in a day for everything, but there are enough hours for what you choose to prioritise.
At different points in your life different things will be a priority and that’s ok, but you have to ensure that you’re intentional about your priorities. This is particularly important because disorganisation comes in many flavours. For example, letting your priorities choose themselves, or trying to do everything instead of being selective. In both instances, you might assume that since you’re being productive, it doesn’t really matter that you aren’t orderly about how you use your time… but how do you know that the most important things are getting addressed?
P.S. What you’ll often find is that your devotion will help guide and steer what your other priorities should be – a great perk, right?!
2. I trust people more (easily) than God
Invisalign requires the use of attachments which I thought made my teeth worse and a million times less invisible for something that’s meant to be an ‘invisible aligner.’
“They worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.” (Isaiah 2:8, NKJV)
I remember getting an email to view the treatment plan my orthodonist had created and to comment on whether I was ok with the attachments. I thought that was such a strange question to ask because clearly I wasn’t the expert; therefore, if she thought I needed that many then who was I to argue? Perhaps it was asked out of courtesy, but I was expecting to be told rather than asked. The point is, I trusted the professionals implicitly. It didn’t cross my mind that actually she could have drawn up a terrible treatment plan and I should seek treatment elsewhere.
God is worthy of your trust.
Isaiah 2:8 is referencing Philistine idol worship, but often we’re no better; opting to trust self or objects rather than the One who created everything. I’m not sure what God needs to do to ‘prove’ Himself worthy of your trust, but I’m sure He’d appreciate you having the same kind of confidence in Him that you have in the other professionals that you encounter on a daily basis. Whether it’s the taxi driver that you’re certain will drive you to your destination instead of off a cliff, or the restaurant chefs that you don’t assume have poisoned your meal. By eagerly trusting others whilst allowing mistrust to fester in your relationship with God, you miss out on a richer spiritual experience.
Trust opens the door to vulnerability.
I forget which podcast I was listening to, but they brought out the point that God also wants you to feel comfortable enough to voice your opinion. It needn’t be a “Yes, God. Ok, God. Sure, God” experience. It can be one where you wrestle with Him about things that don’t quite make sense, and you feel able to say “I’m not sure about that, God.” In other words, trust also means that you feel safe to challenge. We can be a lot more guarded with God than we need to be and that also hinders a deeper level of connection.
3. I’m impatient and I like shortcuts
Invisalign hurts a whole lot in the beginning and the pain I felt on day 1 made me question why I’d signed up for this.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)
My teeth felt constricted. Enclosed. Trapped. It was a sensation that lingered. Between the strange desire to eat the plastic that encased my teeth, to the unwelcome pain that I’d invited into my life, I couldn’t wait for the next 12 months to be over. Although the end product was what I wanted, did I really have to endure this to get there? I desperately hoped that I’d get used to the pain. It was great flicking through the 3D simulation that charted the movement of my teeth over the course of 53 aligners, but 1 felt like more than enough!
Pain is part of the process.
Despite the fact that Jesus never gives us the assurance that following Him will be easy, we can sometimes get discouraged by the Christian journey. John 16:33 is one of my favourite verses because Jesus reminds me that I will have tribulation, but I shouldn’t sweat it because He’s my cheatsheet… well, it doesn’t quite say it like that, but near enough. Here’s the deal, the fact that Jesus was able to patiently bear the struggles of this life and continue to make lemonade from the MANY lemons He was given, should encourage you to keep going.
Jesus is exceptional but He doesn’t have to be the exception.
Does the fact that it’s not easy mean you should give up? No. Does the fact that you sometimes mess up mean you should give up? No. By focusing on why you want to endure the struggles that come with Christianity, you’ll be better equipped to handle the struggles that most certainly will come. Most importantly, it’ll help you hold on so you can experience the beautiful moments too. Jesus never promised that it would be easy, but He did promise that you’d have peace… if you want it.
For questions that help you reflect on your relationship with God, have a read of my free 7-day devotional.
4. I need to give myself time to adjust
After a while Invisalign is actually ok. You barely notice that you have aligners in and it feels strange when you’re not wearing them.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9, NKJV)
So let’s imagine that after aligner tray 1, I’d abandoned the plan and asked the orthodontist to remove the attachments and I’d carried on with my life. Well… I never would have made it to tray 48 (my current tray)! I’m definitely grateful that my decision to do this happened during the pandemic because taking aligners out and popping them back in is less of a hassle when you’re working from home. However, all in all I’d say it’s actually been ok. My teeth aren’t perfect, but my main concern has already been addressed – I think that was around tray 32.
Perseverance pays off.
Doing good can be enjoyable, but it can sometimes be exhausting. Paul encourages you to keep on keeping on for this very reason. Perhaps there’s something you started with the intention of benefiting others, but you haven’t had the support you were hoping for. Maybe you’re a cheerful and upbeat person who finds themselves in an environment where this is reciprocated with hostility and coolness. Don’t base your actions on how others act towards you. It would be wonderful to think you’ll definitely see the fruits of your labour in this lifetime, but that might not be the case. Choosing to persevere with what’s right in spite of the challenges will reap the ultimate blessing: seeing Christ.
5. Growth does happen overnight… it’s just really small and I can’t see it!
Invisalign tray changes happen at set intervals (in my case, every 5 days), but if the orthodontist doesn’t think there’s been sufficient movement with the current tray, she’ll extend the time in that tray before giving the go ahead to change into the next tray.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18, NKJV)
Over the past 9 months, there have been a few occasions where I’ve been prevented from changing into the next tray because my teeth haven’t moved enough. On most of those occasions, to me, it didn’t feel like I’d done anything differently to the days where I got the green light to keep going. However, to the orthodontist, it was clear whether there’d been a sufficient level of movement during that 5-day timespan. Whilst I was blind to these ‘minor’ changes, the app lets you see the transition from the beginning to the current date – it’s crazy how much has changed and I’ve barely noticed.
Jesus didn’t die so you could enjoy the comfort of complacency.
On one hand, when I’ve ‘outgrown’ a tray (i.e. it’s day 5 and I’ve been given the green light to move on), I don’t particularly want to move to the next one. It’s always weird adjusting to the next tray. I can feel the tightness instantly. I’m used to the oldness. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s dependable. Embracing something new requires effort (this is where chewies come in!) and it would be easier to prolong my time in the previous tray. Are you comfortable in your spiritual life? Perhaps comfortable to the point where God encouraging you to move a little further in the right direction feels too much like hard work? God is interested in moulding and shaping your character to be like His and if He’s ‘Lord’ in name only, He won’t be able to do that. However, if you allow Him to take you on your personal journey where you change ‘trays’ when He sees fit and not when you want to, over time your character will blossom.
Growth is growth regardless of timeline.
On the other hand, each ‘no go’ (i.e. it’s day 5 and my time has been extended) is frustrating because it adds extra days to the overall length of time I’ll be in this plastic prison. I have every single aligner tray with me at home so it would be very easy to disregard the orthodontist’s instructions and plough ahead, but obviously that would be a recipe for disaster! However, in doing so, I’d be expressing dissatisfaction with my journey and the length of time it’s taking me to progress. Yes, someone else might have achieved the necessary level of growth in the expected 5 days, but that’s them not me. Forcing my teeth into the next trays earlier than planned isn’t going to make them move any faster – it’ll make matters worse! You may be able to relate to this experience of impatience and comparison in a particular area of your life, but what I love about how it relates to spirituality is that the instruction is to ‘grow.’ Not to grow quickly. Or to have grown by ___ in ___ years. Just grow. Your spiritual journey will look different to everyone else’s and it may take longer than others to grasp certain things, but embrace your journey for what it is: yours.
So just to recap: I don’t want to move forward, but I don’t want to be in the same place, but I also want to make it to the end – make it make sense!
6. Discipline is a must*
Invisalign trays must be worn for at least 22 hours a day – so basically all the time except when eating or drinking.
“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:25, NLT)
Invisalign requires discipline in lots of areas to fix the issues it’s meant to be addressing. Whether it’s being diligent in the use of chewies, monitoring the length of time trays have been removed, or remembering to take scans via the app, they all play a part in the growth mentioned in the previous section. Establishing the right routine to accommodate the trays took some time, but it’s pretty much a habit by this point. Earlier I spoke about how the pain made me want to fast forward the process, but at times so has the mundanity of the routine.
Time with God needs to be a spiritual discipline.
I recently came across a Lysa Terkeurst quote that says, “a woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” This really resonated with me because there’s barely a day that my schedule isn’t packed. On the days when I’m the busiest, sadly, it’s often when time with God gets sidelined. One day turns into two and before I know it, a week has gone by without quality time with Him. God doesn’t punish me for the days missed. However, feeling the effects of what Lysa refers to as an “underwhelmed soul” is ‘punishment’ enough.
There are no shortcuts to success.
What are your spiritual goals and what would success look like? Does the eternal prize matter to you? The idea that success requires hard work isn’t news to anyone, however sometimes we try to cut corners or operate on the bare minimum to see if ‘just enough’ will do. The fact that minimum effort yields minimum results is something you know theoretically; you don’t need to test this experientially too. Each person’s spiritual life is different, but whatever is required for you to reach your spiritual goals, know that spiritual discipline is a must.
*When I was writing this, Elsa Majimbo’s voice popped in my mind when she asks “is it a must?” in her characteristically Elsa way – if you know, you know! On a more serious note, if you’d like to talk to someone about your spiritual journey, or simply have some accountability around the things you know you need to do contact me.
7. Separation is dangerous
Invisalign typically takes around a year to straighten teeth. However, said teeth have been in their previous position for 10+ years and will happily move back hence why retainers are needed.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4, NKJV)
One thing that was made clear to me from the start is that even when this is all over, I’ll still need to wear retainers to preserve what I’ll have spent a year trying to achieve. Of course, I could get to the end of the treatment and decide I’ll risk it and be retainer-less… but I really don’t want to do this process again in a few years. Therefore, I’ll gladly be best friends with my retainer so I don’t have to become reacquainted with the plastic prison.
Abiding is key or you’ll slip into old habits.
Staying connected to the vine (Jesus) serves the same purpose as a retainer. It doesn’t matter how much of a ‘good’ Christian you were in the past, what matters is how connected you are right now. Without abiding in Him, you can easily head back to your former life because that’s what’s comfortable. However, choosing not to abide also means you don’t value Jesus or bearing fruit as much as being independent. There’s a level of danger attached to separation that we don’t fully appreciate; there’s never a time when it’s ok to be apart from Jesus because spiritual warfare is 24/7.
Underestimate your loyalty and overestimate your desire to stray.
There have been times in my spiritual walk where I’ve felt like “I’ve got this.” Whilst I would have regarded it as a confident rather than boastful declaration, it betrayed an inner sense of pride because it made me feel comfortable enough to stop abiding. In my mind, the discipline I had leading up to that particular point meant that I’d be ‘ok.’ Except that isn’t how spirituality works. Paul didn’t say he dies to self when he feels he needs to. He said he dies daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). He knew that yesterday’s effort, discipline, commitment, love, and loyalty wouldn’t necessarily transfer to today because we, as the song says, are prone to wander. Prone to leave the God we love.
- Is devotion as much of a priority for you as it should be?
- What is one thing you can change in your life right now that will help you to trust God more?
- How can you embrace the (good) pain in any areas that are making you feel uncomfortable/stretching you?
- Are there areas in your life where you’re rushing ahead instead of trusting the process?
- How have you grown in Christ over the past week/month/year?
- Is discipline a must for you? If not, why not? If yes, how can you ensure that remains the case?
- Write down 3 reasons why abiding in Christ is important to you. Display these reasons somewhere where you’re likely to see them regularly e.g. lock screen/wallpaper, poster on your wall, inside your devotion journal etc.
Be attentive to the lessons that you can learn from your everyday experiences. These object lessons are a work in progress, but I hope that when I think of Invisalign it’ll always have a dual meaning.