Wooden Boxes for Teeth
As I was reading my devotion this morning on an answered prayer from a young teen’s point of view, I remembered that my own first, bona-fide answer to prayer came at a very early age as well, and in the strangest way! It was not answered by way of a local VBS or a church revival or even an altar call. It came by way of box—a wooden box all the way from the shores of Jacksonville Beach, FL.
My family was on a wonderful summer vacation at the beach, and we only had 3 more days left on our trip. I had become brave in the ocean by this time, and my parents had dropped their “safety guard” somewhat with me. On this particular morning, my mom and I had drifted way too far from the shore on a float, and I was completely unafraid (brave soul that I was). Admittedly our venture into the open sea was too soon after a stern warning from my Dad, and it was much too soon after his warning for me to be bragging of my bravery.
But the drifting was not the only problem we faced. In addition, my mom could not swim with any strength, nor could she see without her glasses. So in truth, the problem was not really the innocent drifting at all, it was that I (a little girl barely as big as a whisper) was in charge on that float that day!!!
But “all was well” because I THOUGHT I was a strong swimmer, and I knew I could SEE perfectly well. I knew exactly how far we were out, and I was ecstatic riding the waves. I really had gone too far though…far enough that my Dad was now standing, shouting, and motioning us back!
See, there was one detail that I had overlooked. I had not considered the strength of the undercurrent combined with the pace that we were drifting out in the ocean and down the beach. The reality that I am here writing this today is a miracle that I will share in another story, but the answered prayer for today’s tale is not about our safe arrival to shore. Instead it is about my Daddy’s new teeth—his expensive new teeth—his new set of false teeth.
Life guards were too far away for my dad to get help for us, so he did what great dads of his day did. He jumped in, swam hard, and rescued us with a crowd on the beach watching anxiously. The only non-heroic happening that day was that in the commotion, he became winded, opened his mouth for air as he reached for mama, and his false teeth fell into the Atlantic Ocean!!!
We were rescued, but boy oh boy, I was in trouble!! Not only was the fun day rapidly brought to an end, but my sense of bravery was just as quickly squelched. After a long night, and even longer morning, my parents decided to leave two days early and stop by my aunt’s in Valdosta, GA . From there they would try to get in touch with their dentist and see about new teeth.
(Can I just tell you that our trip back home was the polar opposite of my fun family trip going south to the beach only 5 days earlier???) Momma fussed at Daddy: how could he lose his teeth? Daddy responded by fussing at Momma: how could she lose her mind and let me get us so far out? I tried not to cry because it seemed to be all my fault, and I could only understand part of Daddy’s words—because he had no teeth.
I wanted Daddy’s teeth back because by now the cost of them had risen to well more than my family could possibly ever afford to pay. Maybe that is not entirely the accurate recollection of the complete event, but I clearly remember reasoning that if the teeth were not floating in the Atlantic on their way to Africa by now, all would be well. I was sure of that.
Oh, how shallow we can be sometimes. I was shallow, but sure…sure that the floating teeth warranted my specific prayers and sure that God would hear. So I prayed that Saturday night—hard! I don’t remember giving thanks for our safety, for traveling mercies, or for anything else pertinent to my life at the time, but I remember specifically petitioning for the teeth to be found and returned. It’s funny how even at eleven you just go to God with the heart of the matter—the lost teeth.
As I reflect now, I smile because I have perfect recall of exactly where everyone was sitting in the den that very Sunday night 45 years ago when the call came. The hotel phoned and told my mom that the teeth had been found by a vacationer several miles down the beach. With that answered phone call, my family’s relationships were immediately repaired and my family’s finances were quickly restored. The teeth were in a wooden box, and on the way to our house.
Greater still that night, a young girl realized that she had made a special call of her own, and it was answered in a mighty way. I can still remember my mom walking into the den, sitting in her spot on the sofa, and saying to my Dad, “J.A. you are not going to believe this…somebody found your teeth!” She might as well have walked into the den and said to me, “Anne, your prayer was answered.”
Through the years, I have matured in realizing a precious thing—the teeth were never lost. God was just looking for that special wooden box to return them in, so that I would forever be reminded of that call I made to Him that Saturday night. Or is it that I am forever reminded how quickly He answered my prayer?
Blessings, Mimi (AKA Anne)
Psalm 17:6 "I call on You, my God, for You will answer me; turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer."