HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
October 9, 2006, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Grin and bear it

Dr. Tom Rakow, Pastor, Grace Bible Church, Silver Lake

It was late afternoon on Thanksgiving Day, and our little family (Beth, myself, and our young daughters) was in the parsonage alone, enjoying a traditional turkey dinner.

Beth noticed first. “You lost a tooth,” she said.

Sure enough, a front tooth out of my lower denture was gone.

Now, I know that the Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

And, again, the scriptures say, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Nevertheless, at that moment, I was certainly not feeling very thankful, and I was worried.

However, sometimes seemingly negative things happen which, when viewed in hindsight, we are happy took place. For example, we may wind up being glad we didn’t get a certain job, or that the deal on the house fell through, or even that a particular relationship didn’t work out. Yes, at times, we can be thankful for some pretty strange things.

Of course, I knew that losing an artificial tooth was not the end of the world. Call it vanity, or just being self-conscious, but, as a pastor who would be standing up front preaching on Sunday, I knew my missing tooth would certainly be visible.

Furthermore, at that time, we were about as financially strapped as a family could be, paying school and medical bills, as well as driving a vehicle which was on its last leg. It would be quite a while before we could afford to have my denture fixed. What was I going to do?

For some unexplainable reason, my thoughts started drifting to the freezer sitting in the garage. I especially started thinking about the black bear skull I had wrapped up in a black garbage bag.

At first, I dismissed the idea. But, soon, I found myself standing in the garage, digging through the freezer.

I removed the contents from the bag. Hmmm. The more I looked at the teeth in the skull, the more it seemed like a real possibility.

I dashed to the tool box, pulled out a pair of pliers and got a sharp knife. By that evening, the tooth had been filed down to fit in place and was firmly held with a glue mixture normally used by taxidermists.

That first bear tooth lasted several months. Then, back to the freezer I went for another.

No one other than Beth and our girls knew about my unusual use of bear teeth until about six months later, when I told my parents and siblings. Their initial response to this strange revelation varied greatly.

My dad thought it was hilarious, while mom expressed grave concern, exclaiming, “You could get a disease or something.” To which I responded, “Well, I have noticed that I want to sleep a lot, and I now have this strange desire to dig around in garbage cans.”

She didn’t think it was very funny.

My sister, Deb, was primarily inquisitive. She peered into my mouth, wondering exactly which tooth it was.

On the other hand, my brother, Kelly, said something which made me feel good. He asked if it was really true that I had a bear tooth. When I said, “Yes,” he responded, “That’s the kind of thing legends are made of.”

It was about a year-and-one-half later before I finally got a new partial denture. But, I have to tell you that even now, years later, I am still grateful for that bear.

In fact, God was thanked numerous times for that black bear. Not only was I grateful for the opportunity I had to harvest this creature (which was my first bear), but the Lord was also thanked at every meal where we served bear steaks, bear sausage, or bear burgers. Indeed, we found bear to be one of those foods, “which God created to be received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:3b).

But, most of all, I am thankful that this bear gave me the ability to grin without being too self-conscious. And, you never know, perhaps someday, this same bear might even make me a legend.

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