Maybe it was the terror that sitting in a dentist chair sends through my body, maybe it was the emotion of knowing that relief was finally on its way for my terrible toothache that would, at times, consume my every thought and leave me holding my face praying for silence, dark and healing. Maybe it was the gentleness and grace of the kindly dentist.
Whatever it was, I sniveled and goobered all over his office like a child. With eyes sufficiently puffy, and a red nose to rival Rudolf, I sheepishly made my way down the hall to the washroom to clean up so as not to frighten children who may be in the waiting room…
He had explained that some tooth infections heal themselves. My pain had ‘only lasted for a month.’ I had several options: “Pain killers while we wait to see if it heals …”
He can’t seriously expect this pain to be continue?! I interrupted, “Really?”
“Why do you doubt me?” He asked gently. He’d never given me any evidence that he’s a liar or even one to exaggerate. He could have been angry – I’d interrupted, had come with an agenda (which means I wasn’t listening to his options), and I’m a lay-person. What do I know about dentistry anyway? But he did not take the opportunity to be proud, offended, self righteous or indignant. Instead, he calmly and gently explained – again - what my options were.
I had come in terrified, but there was no reason to be afraid.
I had come in with pain, but healing was on its way.
I had come in afraid of the pain I’d feel, but I was already in pain. The pain I would experience, if any, would now be the kind that leads to healing. It reminded me of Hebrews 12:10 “The lord disciplines those he loves. But no discipline is fun while it’s happening, it is painful! But afterward, there will be a harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” My dental version went something like, ‘No dental work is fun while it’s happening, it is painful! But afterward, there will be a harvest of healthy teeth for those who are helped in this way.”
In other words, no pain, no gain baby.
As he removed the last of the tools and objects from my mouth, he said “Okay, you can unclench your fists now.” I slowly unclenched them. My eyes remained pinched shut as I tried not to cry. “Don’t be so hard on yourself”. Tears flowed. Tears of relief and gratitude; tears of conviction...
This man had been so gracious to me; the way I ought to be. Even when my children have irrational fears, views, expectations, and are emotional … they still need grace and mercy just like I do.
I’m deeply moved by his gentleness and grace – and he’s a sinful man. What must God’s grace and gentleness be like?