Yesterday, I spent two hours in the dentist’s chair.
Like many professionals these days, the dentist, and her crew, were all considerably younger than I. Maybe it’s because I remind them of their mothers that they were so solicitous, gently hovering from the moment I mentioned that I was petrified of 1) the drill and 2) what the drill would feel like if the Novocaine didn’t take effect.
“Raise your hand at the first sign of any pain,” the dentist said. “But please, don’t shake your head or try to jump out of the chair. Children do that sometimes, and it’s not a good idea.”
As an adult, I fully comprehend what shaking one’s head does to the drill in the dentist’s hand, so I raised my hand in assent.
Lots of Time to Think
While I was there, sitting in the chair, I had time to think — that is, when my mind wasn’t focused on the sound of the drill and maintaining a sense of alertness about potential, rapid, screamingly debilitating pain (two shots of Novocaine quite fortunately did the trick), so I thought.
And what I thought was this:
Going to the dentist is a lot like submitting myself to God.
Don’t lose me here: too many of us have 1) really bad fears of dentists and 2) really bad interpretations of God, so let’s not fuse the two. This is an allegory, and not all points will match up. The last thing I want to do is make you more frightened of God than some of you are.
But consider these:
Do It Yourself Dentistry?
1) Dental work is not a DIY job. Not even a dentist can work on her own mouth, and if we need something done, we find ourselves in a chair, tipped backward, trusting in the competency of the person leaning over us.
Many of us are self-sufficient people, castigating ourselves when we have to depend upon someone else’s expertise, and this very much spills over into our spiritual life. How many times have you upbraided yourself:
“I don’t have enough faith/trust/joy/peace/wisdom/discernment,” as if it were something you could spontaneously create within your heart. These are gifts, my friend, and only God can give them. Trying to manufacture them yourself through good feelings and happy talk is like filling your own teeth.
2) The dentist sees work that needs to be done when we don’t. My trip to the chair was a result of the dentist spotting a small, hairline crack in a large, old filling. Wasn’t bothering me yet, but she assured me that, given too much time, I’d be crawling in.
So it is in our lives: God sees cracks that, given enough time, will lead to greater damage that will hurt more to fix. Doesn’t seem like a problem to us, but He’s the Dentist.
3) It’s easier on the dentist — and us — when we don’t flail about in the chair. Both my dentist and God are not sadists — they want to know when there’s pain. In the same way that another poke in the gums doesn’t, to the uninitiated, seem like a good answer, some of God’s methods of comfort seem counter-intuitive as well.
But resisting, squirming, slapping, and running away definitely aren’t the answer. There’s a reason why God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46: 10). Another translation says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”
The more still you sit, the better the dentist, and God, can do the work that needs to be done.
Wait until the Dentist Is Done
4) And speaking of being done, don’t get out of the chair until the dentist gives the okay. Can you imagine standing up, throwing off the silly little bib, and saying, “That’s it, I’m done!” just after the dentist finishes drilling out all of the old filling, but before she packs anything new back in?
While this may be fine for the next hour, once the Novocaine wears off, you’d be an exceedingly wretched spectacle of hapless humanity, that is, if we could hear anything over your shrieks.
Believe me, after the first 90 minutes, I was done, but I wasn’t about to assert my independence over the dentist’s judgment, expertise, and skill. And yet, we do this with God all the time, convinced that we know more about our lives than He does.
It’s never fun going to the dentist, no matter how much classical music wafts through the air, or what great magazines they stock in the waiting room. But not going is worse, because unseen problems don’t go away just because we don’t see them.
I was fortunate this time because I had the means and ability to get the work done; this has not always been so, and I am grateful for an experience that definitely wasn’t pleasant, but needed.
God’s dental work in our life doesn’t require insurance, saving up, or doing without in order to pay: it’s free, and all we have to do is ask, submit, and accept.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my goal is to get you to think about God and your relationship with Him. Too often, we follow a God who is cruel, insensitive, demanding, impatient, and unkind, and our conventional way of teaching about Him does nothing to mitigate this belief.
But this Bad God isn’t real: He’s an idol, and one not worth following. But in order to find the real God we have to walk a narrow road — a road far narrower than we’ve been led to expect in our world of perfect church attendance, early rising for our Quiet Time, and not flashing a well-turned ankle (that used to be lascivious in the 19th century, you know?)
Talk to God directly: He’s listening and ready to embrace you in His arms. Read the Bible — for yourself — and discover Him day by day. He loves you — deeply, unconditionally, and right here and now.
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What Unconditional Love Looks Like (at my sister blog, This Woman Writes)