There’s a reason why “cutting teeth” became a popular phrase to describe a newcomer struggling to learn a task. Cutting teeth is hard—as any momma and her child can attest.
Swollen gums. Sleepless nights. Endless fussing with no relief. Weeks of waiting for a single tooth to painfully push itself through.
Our first foray into leadership often feels like those early infant days of cutting teeth. We work countless hours, often on little sleep. We muddle through conflict, navigate bureaucracy, and endure opposition. We question our purpose. We struggle and strive and stress for what feels like years with seemingly little to show for it.
Where’s that beautiful pearly white we’ve been anticipating? That thank you? The raise? Or maybe just a single word of praise? The things we long for seem painfully absent when we’re cutting our teeth.
When you think about it, all of life we’re cutting teeth. That first job or ministry position was only the beginning. We get married. Have a child or two. Finally receive the promotion.
In every new stage or season, we learn our lessons all over again. We face new pressures, new trials. We feel lost, confused, conflicted once again. We wonder when the perfect time—the one without so many struggles—will come.
In so many ways, cutting teeth is a metaphor for the spiritual life. And that’s the way God intended it.
Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:4, “For we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothed, but clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” The word he uses for our groaning can describe a woman in labor; it can also mean to “feel pressure from what is coming on—which can be intensely pleasant or anguishing” (source).
Paul goes on to say that God designed it this way. We were made for heaven. We long for it. We crave the relief in it and the joy of it. And until we get there, pain will be involved.
So if you find yourself feeling restless, maybe even a little fussy inside, take heart. The pains and sleepless nights, the tears cried and hopes deferred have a purpose. They’re creating something inside of us, even when we can’t see it peeking through.
One day our Savior will look us over, and let us know just what he sees. He will repay. He will reward. And in the meantime, his hope will get us through.
Where are you struggling today? How can focusing on the end—the day when we’ll be through cutting teeth and finally be complete—get you through?