Stress, Spruce and Surprise

Today in the morning, Chui informed me that she was experiencing pain on the left side of her jaw. It so happened that since I was having an appointment with the dentist, I suggested to Chui to allow the dentist to have an oral view, and if he could not spot anything wrong then I would bring her to see a general practitioner.  Closing in on our destination, it dawned upon me that about 2 nights ago, I had heard Chui grinding her teeth. I brought it up to her and told her to highlight this returning disorder to the dentist.

I said, “returning” because about 10 years ago Chui had informed this same dentist about her frequent routine during her sleep. The dentist had diagnosed it as stress-related and implied that Chui’s longing for a child could be responsible for making her a teeth grinder. True enough when Joseph arrived, Chui stop grinding. That is, for 7 years she was out of the grinding business until 2 nights ago. As my dentist picked up his tools to work on my enamel-covered chewers, I told him about the return of the nocturnal sounds I had not heard for a long time. Like before, he stressed that stress is the likely culprit and we should find out where it was coming from.

Well, it did not require much psychological analysis for me to sieve out the culprit. All it took was plain honesty. I was the culprit – the new stress supplier. I was responsible for a recent conflict between us. After 20 years of marriage, our arguments have acquired a more sophisticated style where words are powered not by their decibel audibility but their detrimental ability.  Although I had apologized before today, I began to apologize with a new zest of sincerity. I began to be generous in my supply of hugs. During our lunch-break, I decided to bring her to a new food venue named Spruce that Chui had discovered recently (By the way, the place does not allow the affordability for daily lunches but certainly offers excellent ambience and food for special events like birthdays, anniversaries, breakups, celebrations, weddings….). The food was great because the items we ordered came with surprises that we enjoyed.

God wants to spruce up our lives with surprises.  Spruce’s signature salad did not look extraordinary but it was one of the best I have consumed.  What look like the usual croutons turned out to be warm and soft yellow looking bread pieces. Other surprises include the presence of dried dates/prunes and chopped almonds (not the flaky ones) that brought the salad concoction to a new palatable dimension. I do not attempt to be a food critic but to describe the other items we had ordered and shared, there were the Grandpa meatballs and a slice of Upside-down pineapple cake. I would say they were simply surprisingly superb. I mean usually meatballs taste like meatballs.  But these meatballs’ exhibited a special flavor and what appeared like an ordinary English pound cake became special by its interaction with a layer of pineapple pieces.

Jesus’ background was too ordinary for the Jews and their religious leaders to accept the extraordinary surprises he wanted to bring into their lives through his teachings and his way of life.  Jesus came to spruce up their lives but it was difficult for them to think that a greater glory than the glory of Moses is now with them.  How could a greater glory come from a carpenter’s son? In their words, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

2 Corinthians 4 tells us about this greater glory,

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence…”

The stress of life that hurts and harms us is surprisingly unsuccessful when we experience the sprucing power of a resurrectional life offered by God.  Would we allow God to spruce up our lives with surprises? Sometimes, it comes through the ordinary things of life for they hold extraordinary power. Are we willing to embrace them?

Chui’s pain (me) had eased off completely by the end of the day and she slept through without grinding her teeth. Indeed I was the culprit.

[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog]

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