Thursday, April 17, 2008

The dentist

Went to the dentist this afternoon. I learned from an early age that going to the dentist was something to be dreaded at all costs. I remember one time when my big strong dad walked around looking like he had the mumps, because though he could scale mountains, someone coming at his mouth with a tiny needle was a fate worse than death. So every time I have to go, it freaks me out.

Of course, I did have so many teeth pulled as a kid I only have twenty-two teeth now, and once, when I was having a mold made of my teeth , the plaster accidentally spilled back down my throat, and I gagged and gagged while the woman (I don't think they were called hygenists in those days) patted my arm and said, 'just another minute, poor dear.' When she pulled the mold out of my mouth, and with it a perfect mold of the front of my throat, up came the contents of my stomach. She was a little horrified--also a little covered with vomit, poor dear.

Anyway, these days-well, the last thirty years or so--I still get pretty stressed about going to the dentist, enough so that I sit gripping the chair handles so hard my fingers turn white, my shoulders tighten, and I have to remind myself to breathe. It's reflex--like that whole gagging thing. Because the strangest thing is that dentists LOVE my teeth. Seriously. I mean, my whole body is falling apart, except for my teeth. Today my regular dentist wasn't in the office, so his new associate had the privilege of fawning over my 'gorgeous' fillings, "They're so bright and shiny, they look like they were done yesterday"--(these 30-year old silver fillings!), the way the right teeth were pulled to make my mouth the proper shape--"What a well-done job," and the great care I take with my teeth. Only I don't. I mean, my teeth, for which I take only a little credit for, just have the genetic make-up of being strong and healthy. I try not to screw that up, but that's about all.

Anyway, I'm so stressed going in, so tense sitting there, and it's never anything but a glowing experience. Ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. My response to the dentist is not based on reality. Not based on truth.

Pretty much like how we think God is with us a lot of times, it occured to me on the way home. We live our lives, even our lives as His disciples, like we're going to the dentist and are sure to have a million cavities, and must face that odious drill and pick and needle being shoved into our mouth. We imagine pain and torture, which we're so afraid of, as the cost to our screw-ups. We get so stressed, thinking of how we blow it, what we haven't done, what He might think of us.
But, oddly, we get in the chair, He bends over us, and says, "You're perfect. I've already done everything I needed to to make you whole. Just keep yourself clean." The truth is, that filling that looks brand new? That's Christ. Bright and shiny and new every morning--He died and rose and lives to make us new too. Life based on truth.

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