You never know how much you miss it until it’s gone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2011

Last week I lost my smile. It happened rather suddenly on Monday afternoon, but I didn’t realize it until I looked in a mirror and noticed the right corner of my mouth was turned down.

I tried to smile, but my mouth would not cooperate. Within a few hours, I had been diagnosed with Bells Palsy and was greatly relieved that I had not suffered a stroke. My doctor prescribed a steroid and an anti-viral medication, as well as vitamin B-12.

As I have learned from my doctor and researching the history, symptoms and treatment of Bells Palsy, I discovered it’s a paralysis of a facial nerve that takes three or four weeks to go away. It can be caused by the same chicken pox virus that causes shingles.

Bells Palsy affects not only my mouth, but also my right eye, which isn’t blinking as it should. My eyelid doesn’t close completely, so I keep adding artificial tears during the day and special eye drops at night.

Like any adversity, there’s a lesson to be learned. Once again, I’ve realized how easy it is to take for granted simple things like a smile. Mother Teresa once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Trying to smile is now one of the exercises I’m doing to help my facial muscles.

Have you ever lost your smile?  It could be caused by grief when a loved one dies, by serious illness, or a traumatic event.  Sometimes just the day-to-day frustrations and circumstances of life can steal your smile. Our faces often reflect the cares and fears that weigh us down.

Once again, I’m reminded that happiness depends on what’s happening, which we often cannot control. But there’s a joy within that comes from God as we draw near to Him, no matter what the circumstances. I once read that “joy is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ.”  Philippians 4:4 tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

Author/pastor Adrian Rogers has said, “Happiness is a cosmetic; it is on the outside. Joy is character; it is on the inside. Happiness only meets your surface needs, but joy meets your deepest needs. Therefore, happiness is like a thermometer, it just registers conditions. Joy is the thermostat that controls the conditions.

“Happiness evaporates in a crisis. Joy many times intensifies in a crisis…. Happiness is at its fullest when it is mingled with joy, when you know the joy of the Lord.”

This experience has given me depth of compassion for those who have had strokes that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

In a few weeks or so, my smile will return to normal, and I’ll gladly wear it. I recently read, “A smile costs nothing but gives much…It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever…Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.”