Who Invented Dental Floss

I heard the comment once that conversations never end in ”I don’t know” anymore. Inevitably someone will whip out their cell phone and ask Siri, and the answer magically will appear.

This was certainly the case for me the other night when I was – you guessed it – flossing my teeth. Perhaps you’ve never wondered about the invention of dental floss before, but if you’re like me, you’re wondering now.

I grew up on the cusp of the internet era. I still remember card catalogs and microfiche machines and giant reference books in the stacks. A question like “Who invented dental floss?” was not something that just anyone could know. You would need to do research. Find an expert who specialized in the history of dentistry, read a dental history textbook, or visit a museum of dental history.

Today, any question I can dream up has an answer sitting in my hip pocket.

Well, almost any question. Ask Siri what the meaning of life is, and she’ll give one of several snarky answers ranging from “42” to “I don’t know, but I think there’s an app for that.”

Depending on our question, an internet search may not be the best way to find our answer.

Perhaps as this new year has its beginning, we are also looking for a fresh start. An internet search can point us to a lot of excellent resources, ranging from organizing our closets to inspirational guidance, but if we’re looking for a deeper new beginning, we need to access a deeper source.

The Bible tells the story of Nicodemus, a scholarly man who, as a member of the Jewish ruling council, would have had every resource of that day at his fingertips. Yet despite all that access, the knowledge equivalent of today’s internet search engines, he apparently still had a question that remained unanswered. He came at night, perhaps afraid of public ridicule or worse. But he came. To ask the deeper Source a question.

Jesus talked to Nicodemus about a new birth, a more radical new beginning than Nicodemus could even fathom. But it was a new birth that was available to Nicodemus, and it is available to each one of us still today. God promises that when we seek Him earnestly, He will be found by us (See John 3:1-21 and Deuteronomy 4:29).

What are you searching for?

We cannot talk to Jesus face to face, but I have found that when I have an earnest question on my heart and ask Him to guide me, He brings resources across my path that point me to the truth. It could be a piece of scripture that jumps out at me, a sermon crafted just for me, a song lyric, or even an internet search result. Wherever they come from, those words resonate around the question in my heart in such a way that I know that regardless of the source, there is a deeper Source responding to me.

The answers we seek are not reserved for the experts, for the elite, or for those who have been granted access. Answers are available to everyone who asks.

Whatever new beginning you may be seeking, whatever question you may be asking, hold it in your heart and ask God to guide you to the answer. He has a way of curating what you need more powerfully than any search engine I’ve ever seen. Go ahead and ask.

And while you’re waiting for your answer, you can read about the history of dental floss here. Or here. Or…

There is so much information at your fingertips, my friends. Keep searching.

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Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with both two- and four-footed friends. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org

One comment

  1. Love this Janet! I knew as soon as I saw the title that you would be the author. I love your sense of humor. I pray you are doing well and looking forward to a new year. We are doing good. Maybe someday we will be able to meet up again. Until then, keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Blessings to you my friend.

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