I remember a day in 1995 when I was at my college wrestling practice. As I was grappling with my partner, I came down hard and hit my jaw, chipping my teeth. Shocked, I stopped the match and walked over to my coach, feeling the bits of tooth resting on my tongue.
“Coach,” I said, pathetically tilting my head backward, “I chipped my teeth!” I was assuming that my coach would be very sympathetic to me. I thought for sure that he’d tell me to go to the athletic training center and get a massage, sit in the whirlpool, get a protein shake, or something else to ease my “suffering.” Okay, maybe I was only hoping he’d tell me to do those things. Honestly, however, I at least was expecting him to give me permission to leave practice so that I could get a drink and inspect the damage—that would have been good enough for me!
But I’ll never forget what he said to me.
Leaning toward me in disbelief, he asked, “How many years have you been wrestling?”
A bit taken aback by his question, I stuttered, “A…a…ten years, I think…”
Without hesitation, he retorted, “You mean to tell me, that you’ve been wrestling for TEN YEARS and you’ve never chipped your teeth?” And then he walked away!
Standing there with bits of my own teeth still in my mouth, I understood what he was saying: those who wrestle should expect to get their teeth chipped. If you sign up for a contact sport, you should expect to get contacted!
Expectations: this is a very important word to live with. The wrestler who expects not to have his teeth chipped is not being realistic; but the wrestler who knows that chipped teeth go with the territory of the sport has solved a lot of problems before they start.
Some things should not come as a surprise to you; in fact, let me be so bold as to say, some things you should expect to happen. Some difficulties in life go with the territory of being a Christian, for instance. Christians should expect to be persecuted; after all, to be a Christian is to be a “little Christ,” who was persecuted to death. Should his followers expect anything other?
Are you in a relationship? If so, then you should expect to be hurt by that person, whether he or she is a romantic interest or just a friend. That person is a sinner, just like you. And what does a sinner produce? You guessed it: sin! So it should not come as a surprise to you when another person hurts you.
Now, don’t read me wrongly, this doesn’t mean that it’s right that they hurt you. There’s nothing right about pain and suffering; it is never right. However, in some cases, it should always be expected.
Why is this crucial to comprehend? Because we tend to fall in the trap of thinking that God does not love us when bad things happen to us. We think that God does not hear us or does not care for us. Or maybe we start thinking that God isn’t real. The truth of the matter is, however, that pain and suffering are not an indication of God’s non-existence, but of sin’s existence.
You can save yourself a lot of emotional struggle if you get your expectations right. And, dare I say, you can begin to laugh at some of the muck thrown your way in relationships, as you realize, “This other person, who I love dearly, is not perfect, just like I’m not perfect—that’s all that’s happening here—no need for me to make a bigger deal out of this.”
Chipped teeth go with the territory of life in this world. Wear them proudly as you persevere through the contest set before you, for there is a crown of victory on the other side.
© 2010 by Samuel Kee