Flossing as an Act of Hope

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections at 8:08 pm by Al

Like many of the rest of you, I have been flossing my teeth for years, more years than I can count, it seems! Notwithstanding flossing every night, I still never managed to make it a habit, because I simply never really enjoyed flossing. Perhaps it’s because I try to do it last thing of the day, at a time when I’m usually tired. Who knows? Not surprisingly, any excuse that made flossing a pass for the evening, and I was all over it. Most of the time however, I had no excuse, so I dutifully flossed.

Lately it crossed my mind that flossing my teeth may not matter any more. If I’m dying, what’s the point? My teeth are in good shape (one of God’s providential blessings in my life is that I have never had a cavity.) Just think—going to bed without any pre-bedtime rigmarole. Bliss. But somehow I just couldn’t do it…And it wasn’t the guilt of abandoned habit or improper hygiene crying out to my conscience. Rather, I realized that I would be caving in (in a small way) to hopelessness. Flossing your teeth is hardly earth-shaking. But somehow, it felt like giving up. I don’t know what God is going to do with this cancer. So many people are praying for me/us. God might choose to extend my life, even bring me healing for years to come. I have not given up hope, and I’m not going to start a slide down the slippery slope.

Guess what? Each night flossing my teeth has become an act of faith and hope! At least one point in every day I am reminded that until I draw my final breath, God is my hope. And he can do as he alone is able.

In truth, I still sometimes feel the bother of flossing on the occasional late night, but each time I come to that moment of flossing, I am reminded that I want to live and that God is a God in whose faithfulness I can trust. He may choose not to heal me, but my choice is to hope in Him. If I die, my hope is in his resurrection. If I live, my hope is in Christ as well.

And this has applied across the board in my day-to-day life. What joy the little things in life have become. I might even learn that taking out the garbage is blessing. Okay. That’s a bit much for now.


  1. Allie Stryd said,

    March 16, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    Once again, Al, your thoughts are so quieting. And encouraging. We continue to press into prayer on your behalf. We love you so much, Al. And your family.

  2. Christian Cryder said,

    March 16, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    Great comments, Al. Thanks for reminding us of how even the little things can (and should) be pointing us back to Christ. We’re praying for you guys daily…

  3. Stafford Carson said,

    March 17, 2006 at 6:41 am

    Happy St Patrick’s Day, Al. here’s a version of St patrick’s Breastplate (8th century) that we will sing on Sunday and it may be an appropriate prayer for you today. You can sing it to Morning Has Broken tune.

    Christ be beside me
    Christ be before me
    Christ be behind me
    King of my heart
    Christ be withing me
    Christ be below me
    Christ be above me
    Never to part

    Christ on my right hand
    Christ on my left hand
    Christ all around me
    Shield in the strife
    Christ in my sleeping
    Christ in my sitting
    Christ in my rising
    Light of my life

    Christ be in all hearts
    thinking about me
    Christ be in all tongues
    telling of me
    Christ be the vision
    in eyes that see me
    in ears that hear me
    Christ ever be.

  4. Chris Fantuzzo said,

    March 17, 2006 at 7:19 am

    Dear Al and Libbie:
    After a few weeks without any (this is a confession: two of my brothers are dentists), Emily recently brought home a new waxed floss from Johnson+Johnson. It’s called Clean-Burst Icy Spearmint…mmmm….fresh–delicious! Highly recommended for late-night flossing.
    We are praying for you.

  5. Rick Winter said,

    March 17, 2006 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for sharing this. Wednesday night I was praying for you and wrote the following on my blog as I thought about where hope is found.

    Someone asked why I posted the quote from Chesterton so here is my explanation. I spend too much time in the future when the big decisions of life are in the moments. Do I choose to love, today. What will I fear? The kind word spoken instead of swallowed can change a relationship. The anger suppressed, the forgiveness withheld, love expressed …acts with cosmic significance done in the present. Something like that.

    hope springs disappears
    anxiously obscured
    blurred by tears
    fears years ahead
    returns renews
    gracefully illumined
    rescued fear
    faith love inspired

  6. Jack Ellis said,

    March 17, 2006 at 11:17 am

    “Christ be in all hearts
    thinking about me
    Christ be in all tongues
    telling of me
    Christ be the vision
    in eyes that see me
    in ears that hear me
    Christ ever be”

    Dr. Groves
    Thought the song posted by Dr. Carson was great. Especially since I cannot hear your story, or think of your witness without thinking of Christ.
    I have never found dental floss to be so inspirational.
    Also wanted to let you know that I gladly count myself among the many who are praying for you regularly.

    Jack Ellis
    WTS Student

  7. Laurie McCoy said,

    March 17, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Dear Al,
    We have not met – I am Rick Winter’s daughter Jessica’s mother-in-law (couldn’t come up with a less clumsy way to say all that). Rick passed on your post in his xanga blog. Thank you for your writing. My brother just finished his battle with brain cancer, and I had the privilege to walk with him as he lived out each day with hope in Christ, and confidence in that hope. We watched as he finsihed the race, as God completed the work in him – and we saw lives touched at every turn of the journey. Your words brought my brother’s heart to mind, so thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Tho we have not met, I will join the force of those who are praying for you.
    Laurie McCoy – Jessica’s mother in law.

  8. Moses Wong said,

    March 17, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks for your sharing. Your act in faith truly inspires me. Eunice and I will continue to keep you and your family in prayer (as well as inspring me to floss regularly. Currently I have to go to UPenn once a week for root canal treatment and other treatment plan. Shame on me that I’ve not done a good job in taking care of my teeth!)

  9. Sungho Lee said,

    March 17, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Dear Dr. Groves,

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. You and your family are in my prayers. Your faith in our Lord is truly inspiring. Press on!

    Love in Christ,
    Sungho Lee

  10. Steve Nash said,

    March 18, 2006 at 9:58 am

    Hi Al,
    You may not remember me, I was a student of yours back in the mid 80s, now a missionary professor in São Paulo, Brazil. We start our classes here with a time of sharing and prayer and I shared your story with the students. They were encouraged by your trust in God, and a student prayed for you fervently. We certainly had a number of professors at WTS who impacted our lives for eternity, let me say you are one in whom Jesus shines brightly. I am praying for you and your family my brother!

  11. Chris Fisher said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Libbie and Al your exciting, busy lives have taken you to many deep and wonderful experiences. Your time may be less structured these days because of your illness Al, but this is an exciting time of the year,Spring, new growth. God challenges usin many exciting (yes, even in the natural process of dying) ways. The senses are sharpened. We notice the exquisite small things and are aware that we have the same 24 hours as all of our loved ones and friends today despite the fact that the good old world keeps going along as tho all is unchanged, but miracles are real. I’ve seen them. They come unexpectedly and in unpredictable ways.
    I’ve noticed the cloud formations expecially this week. they’ve been spectacular !
    Your suffering is the suffering of all who have had the blessing to know and love you. Your witness (as always) is a loving gift back to Him.
    Much love and prayers, Chris

  12. Ray & Judy Parnell said,

    March 18, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    Dear Al & Libbie,
    As always, when we should be encouraging you, you are encouraging us! Thank you for sharing your heart. The picture was great. Seeing all of you sitting in the wheelchairs with those special smiles (that can only come from a member of the Groves’ family) just warmed our hearts.

    You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

    Ray & Judy

  13. Sam Logan said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:40 am

    Al –

    Tonight, I will floss with joy!

    I preached this morning in Cape Town at the first “coloured” congregation of the Christian Reformed Church of South Africa. After the sermon, the pastor called Susan and me up to the front of the church where we stood while he and the whole congregation prayed for us “and those we love.” YOU AND LIBBIE are surely “those we love” so there is no doubt in my mind that they were all praying for you. Not a single day goes by without our remembering you in prayer . . . and that includes both thanksgiving and petition. It will be so good to be able to see you soon!

  14. Kent Morton said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:32 am

    Al — Your comments on why floss now are profound and go to the heart of faith and hope. My heart rejoices to read them! I have another friend here who is fighting cancer in the hospital. Last Friday she asked a friend to come and do her hair and nails. Both of you have made powerful declarations of hope. This is wisdom.

  15. greg g said,

    March 20, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    You continue to encourage me far beyond my hopes of encouraging you. You’ve reminded me of how often I choose hopelessness and despair when all the hope of eternity is before me.
    You are a wonderful example and a loving rebuke, and I treasure you.
    Thank you brother, and praise the Lord for the light that continues to burn bright within you.

  16. Brandon Withrow said,

    March 21, 2006 at 6:35 pm


    What an amazing perspective. Thank you for allowing yourself to be so open to others in such difficult circumstances. You will continue to be in our prayers.

  17. Dennis Reidenbach said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    Dear Al and Libbie,

    You may recall several years ago Gene List getting up in front of the congregation and asking everyone in the congregation (as only a dentist could do) to 1) remember to brush their teeth every night and 2) remember as they were brushing to pray for He and Ginny as the served the Lord in London.

    Well, the thought came rushing back to me as I read this posting. Flossing and praying for you and your family seems like the right thing to do. I know that Gene would agree.


  18. Marc Lucenius said,

    March 22, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    Al and Libby,
    Thanks for allowing us to follow you as you follow Christ.

  19. Kathy Dirksen said,

    March 26, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    Al and Libbie,
    I am so grateful for your encouraging words and your faith. We are all part of one body, and we ache because of your suffering, and yet, as I have been reading in James 1: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
    Without Christ, we can’t imagine this kind of joy at a time like this, and yet at a time like this Christ is magnified as we are able to have joy! I will be praying this for you that you will be able to have joy, because you know that in Christ you lack nothing.
    We love your family so much.

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