Monday, August 22, 2011

Seeing God's Truth in the Dentist Office

This morning I was blessed by an early call from my dentist's office. I say "my" meaning I plan to go there for checkups. My Beloved does some work there sometimes and he recommended  that I go get a wisdom tooth that had a cavity taken care of. Well, I met Dr. Barkley of High Country Dentistry. He was young. He's a newlywed and his wife, who I haven't met, is an Endodontist in the building right next to his. I've heard all about them from my Beloved.

I already had an appointment for Thursday for a checkup and cleaning, which was to include X-rays. The call this morning was for X-rays: I got them for free for being the guinie pig while they trained someone on the new digital x-ray machine. It took a little longer than normal, but she did an excellent job. I was not nervous at all. She really put me at ease. Oh, have I mentioned how I feel about going to the dentist? I only go as an emergency- like the ER but more dreaded in my book. Over the past decade I've been to a dentist twice. The first one told me that I had to pay them exorbitant amounts of money for scaling or I would lose my teeth by the following year. The second one filled a cavity, said he would not clean my teeth and sent me to a Periodontist for evaluation. I was diagnosed with Periodontal disease and given a treatment plan that also involved lots of money. I have a hard time trusting someone who's business it is to ensure I have a problem that only they can fix. Over my life I have been to dentists who were pull happy, stingy with Novocaine, and sometimes just fussed at me over the condition of my teeth. I realize they are MY teeth and MY responsibility, but there are circumstances sometimes beyond a person's control or in the past that just can't be helped. And no, I don't just guzzle soda. You'd be hard pressed to find me with any kind of soda and it's been that way for at least 10 years. If that's what's served, I ask for water. OK, so maybe I feel a little like I've been ill-treated by some dentists in the past. I can't hold it against all of them forever!

To say I was nervous about having a tooth pulled was an understatement. I was on the verge of throwing up. I always feel nervous like that when doing anything I deem difficult, like meeting new people at places like Bible study in which case I am expected to give intimate details of my life that I don't want to share for fear of folks judging me harshly. My Oldest, Pumpkin told me that I should be fine since she has had dental surgery and survived. She was matter-of-fact-compassionate. She told me it would hurt but after a little while I would forget all this pain and it would have been worth it. My Youngest, Sweetpea held my hand and told me she felt like the Mommy instead of me. She just sat beside me holding my hand giving silent comfort. They offered to play a game with me so I could pass the time without thinking about it, but I decline. I wanted to think about it.

I wondered at the Mysterious way in which our Savior went, knowing what was about to happen, as a Sheep to the slaughter. I felt this sense of dread at the pain that I knew would happen and thought of His knowing about pain and sin and death and still going. My sweet Daughters prayed for me, that the Father would be the one who was operating on me using the Doctor's hands as per my good Friend Linda's suggestion. She said she would be praying or me too. I was called back and thought of all of this. Dr. Barkley talked to me a few minutes and I asked him to tell me the whole thing- everything that would happen as far as surgery goes. I always like to know in advance so I can set my mind to it. He said he wasn't sure until he got in there but he gave me a description of what he thought based on what he saw already on the X-rays. He numbed me and set to work. He worked on me for about an hour. It was a challenge I think. My tooth would not budge.

I thought of how much like sin this tooth was. It had a cavity- a place of decay that was obvious. It hadn't always been there of course, but the way it just broke last month makes me think it was there just under the surface, eating away at what seemed whole. Another thing about this tooth is that the roots were very deep and bulbous at the end and rather than just going down into my jaw, it went back towards my ear. It was well lodged in there but the crown of the tooth seemed to come straight up. It was deceptive. It didnt' start where it seemed to. It started somewhere near that but it was far from obvious which way to pull without x-rays. How much like sin was that root that didn't seem to be connected to the visible part. How very like the Lord to show me this in the middle of a dental visit! He doesn't let us waste a moment when we go to Him with questions, asking for mercy. Sin eats away at us. Sometimes it is not obvious where we got an idea. Until today, I had never thought of tracing my sinfulness back to my own pride early in life. There are sins that don't seem connected to pride, but today I can see them with fresh eyes- from a new perspective- from laying in the dental chair. It hurts when sin is exposed for what it is. It's embarrassing when someone else sees it and is needed to help you remove it. The root must be exposed as well. All of the tissue that has surrounded it- protecting it- hiding it- has to be cut away, or torn depending on how tightly it hangs on. With roots like mine- deep and fat- there is much tissue loss. It is disfiguring to rip out that win root- and part of dealing with pride is humiliation. The Bible calls it becoming humble, but it still feels painful like humiliation. As I deal with the many sins my pride has been the root of- nourishing and feeding and branching off of it, I might look ugly. I may have times of sounding stupid. You might look at me and see someone you thought you knew, but not so much anymore. You might see that pride and decide you don't like me anymore. I think that is also a part of pride. Despite the pain I am in right now after the tooth was extracted, and the humiliation I know that comes when the Lord humbles you, I know I can love Him better without the festering pride. The Lord's faithfulness and love will heal my heart and my mouth.