Vanity Fare

Here's what I tweeted from the dentists' chair last week:

puffed daddy: dental appt leads to unexpected root canal, which leaves my face mighty swollen

It turns out it wasn't the unexpected root canal that left me puffy; it was the dentist's inadvertent prick through the top of the tooth area and into the rest of my face. The area under my left eye immediately filled with pain and then pressure, and then that swelling spent the rest of the week sliding down my face. Plus I was left with a mark under my eye that completed the effect of looking like I'd taken a mighty punch in the face. It was, to say the least, a little uncomfortable and a little embarrassing.

Thankfully, though, there was no pain, which my apologetic dentist told me over the phone a couple of days later meant that the issue would resolve itself over time, and that there was no abcess or infection in there. Which freed me from pangs of worry over my health.

Interestingly enough, though, it did not free me from all pangs of worry. Muser that I am, I could not help but think about how this little incident exposed my vanity. It turns out I do actually care about my appearance, more so than I'd probably like to admit to myself or others. I found myself feeling worse about myself, allowing my mind to wander over the remote possibility that my lopsided face would linger and then what would I do with myself, wanting at times to hide and not engage with the rest of the world around me.

In the grand scheme of things, this was a little blip. And yet that is precisely my point. If something as minute as this was causing my self-image to shake, how much more might my identity and confidence be rocked if something more significant happened to my physical appearance? For someone who purports to be defined first and foremost as a child of God, whose value derives not from my looks or my accomplishments or my inherent goodness but from what my Savior has done for me, this little trial exposed me as awfully vain.

The thing about the Christian life is that it is full of these little tests, these looks in the mirror, these step of faith moments. Sometimes we pass, and sometimes we fail. But, by God's grace, we keep moving forward.

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