Before last Friday, I hadn’t been to the dentist for over three years.
According to the NHS website, “one in four of us dreads going to the dentist.” Rather than visit the dentist, people will remove their own molars and even use superglue to re-attach broken teeth. Only when excruciating pain takes over will they make the call and see a dentist and some don’t even go at that point!
I am not a “one in four.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a lover of the dentist, but I am also not an avoider. My three years absence was merely because I hadn’t got myself organised enough to make an appointment and my teeth were perfectly fine thank you very much for asking (or so I thought).
A couple of weeks ago I felt a definite twinge in my upper left bicuspid (yes I did have to google it). I am one of those annoying people who, when detecting a problem dental or otherwise, wants to address it head on. I say annoying as I am aware that it can be very draining for those around me. I have been occasionally guilty of trying to fix everything at once…all at the same time…on the same day (sorry Lyndon!). So, on the same day that the twinge was detected I booked an appointment at the dentist.
If I’m honest my willingness to get my upper left bicuspid sorted came from a greater fear, much more terrifying than the dentist chair…the dreaded abscess. Once you have endured the face paralysing pain of an abscess then you will literally do ANYTHING to avoid it. It’s like no other pain I’ve experienced because at least I have two beautiful children to show for my other encounter with this level of pain.
So, a couple of x-rays later it became apparent that my upper left bicuspid wasn’t the only ticking time bomb. Three of my old fillings had started to deteriorate and were no longer doing the job that they needed to do. As a result, the decay had started to take hold under the filling and the twinge was the early warning sign of trouble ahead.
Now I said that I wasn’t particularly bothered about the dentist, but needles are another thing altogether. According to many of the“Top ten fears” lists on the internet (seriously how do people have the time to compile these), fear of needles comes in at number 7.
I am REALLY not a fan of needles!
The dentist said I would feel a “gentle scratch.”
No exaggeration, it felt like the needle was burrowing into my jaw bone. The “uncomfortable scratch” brought tears to my eyes and it took everything I had not to break down and completely embarrass myself in the dentist’s chair. The reality of all the drilling, filling and polishing that was about to take place sunk in and my mouth slowly went numb.
Now you might be mistaken for thinking that you have stumbled upon a specialist dental blog! I can assure you that this isn’t the case. I’m also not suggesting that God is the great big dentist in the sky. However, while sitting in that waiting room I was acutely aware of the fear we sometimes feel when faced with the decay in our lives. I was reminded of the way that we can avoid God’s presence in the hope that we will be able to hide from the feelings and behaviours that we are unwilling to change.
I suppose that’s where my level of caution about “dealing with things” comes from. I’ve seen first-hand what happens when decay is left unchecked.
Misunderstandings develop into bitterness and unforgiveness.
Friendly banter degenerates into hurtful put-downs.
Sharing a “prayerful concern” becomes an opportunity to gossip.
The list goes on…
What started as a little bit of decay takes hold and before you know it there’s a definite twinge whenever you go near that area of your life.
Dr. Micha Jazz (2015) explains how,
“It is too easy to become fixated with what I call the big sins. These are things such as sexual immorality, financial impropriety, abuse of leadership authority and the like. However, while we are looking out for the ‘big sins’ we may well fall foul of the little ones - and slowly but surely they can take over our life and break our relationship with God, while at the same time severely detract from our witness in the world.”
I don’t know whether it comes with age or bitter experience, but I’m a lot more keen to face the decay in my life since dealing with a number of painful abscesses.
More and more these days, I find myself praying David’s words.
Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (MSG)
After getting a clear picture of the state of my teeth, the dentist was kind and compassionate. Instead of reminding me of my three year absence, he seemed genuinely pleased that I had finally taken the time to see him for a check-up. He just wanted to help me get the decay back under control. There were no lectures about flossing or regular brushing. He accepted that old repair jobs were flagging and no longer doing their job and took care of me while he addressed the problem. After a few hours of numbness, an inability to smile properly and very tender gums, I was able to appreciate that the warning twinge was no longer there.
My teeth are now fixed! The difference this time is that there will be no three year absence, my next check-up is already in the diary.
- If you underwent a spiritual x-ray today then what areas of decay would be flagged up?
- Are there any twinges that you are aware of but trying to avoid?
- Are you able to pray David’s prayer inviting God to investigate your life and guide you in the right direction?