Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Dentist---and some thoughts about it

This Wednesday, I went to the dentist. Now, for many of you, this is a normal, every 6-month occurrence. You go to the dentist. They scrape, polish, examine, and send you on your merry way, with a lovely new toothbrush and a smile.

Not me. First of all, I haven't been to the dentist since I saw Dr. Bush in Jacksonville, Arkansas, in 1995. That's right, first semester of my freshman year of college. Now, I have a valid, in my mind, excuse. My parents moved from Jacksonville that same semester. You see, I went to Ouachita Baptist Univeristy (Wash-i-taw. Say it with me: Wash-i-taw) in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Mom and Dad lived in Jacksonville, Arkansas, where they had lived for some 7 years now. We had a church family, friends, and a DENTIST! But, the situation becamse quite perfect for the parents to move to the place of their dreams, Rome, Georgia. Well, when they moved, I became a little bit more independent than most college freshman. No more weekday trips home to do laundry, no more weekend home-cooked meals. Mom and Dad weren't neglectful, just distant. You can't make a weekend trip when you live 10 hours away, and you certainly can't make it to the dentist after Thursday classes.

So, I stopped going. It was logical, I didn't think about it, I didn't really know how to find a dentist, and certainly didn't think I could afford a dentist. And, after all, I brushed my teeth when they felt nasty. I should be fine....

Then time passed, and I didn't even really think about going to the dentist. I brushed a little more regularly. Then I got married, and committed to brushing my teeth every day, twice a day. But, I wasn't going to spend money going to the dentist. That was just too expensive!

Then I had kids, and I knew they needed to go to the dentist. After all, it's important to start your kids off right, and I had such fond memories of dentists from my childhood. So, when we were in Memphis, we found a great pediatric dental group, well, had to because of a dental emergency for 1 kid, so we made it a point to take the kids. They loved going to the dentist, and it was great for us to take them, wait for them to finish and bring them home. We even talked about finding a dentist for us adults, maybe even one the whole family could go to...

But then we moved, and weren't sure what to do. We even considered taking the kids all the way back to Memphis for the dentist. But that was just too much trouble. And trying to pick a dentist from the options in Monticello? Well, we may not have a lot to do around here, but we've got dentists, man. We've got several dentists. And what if we picked a bad one?

Enter our dental insurance. There's one dentist in town listed as a provider. So, I went to Dr. Miles' office to make appointments for the kids. But then, feeling a little guilty for sending my kids to something I didn't do, I went ahead and made an appointment for myself. So, with much dread, I went.

And there was much work that needed to be done. I had 14 years of plaque build-up on my teeth, and it was aggravating my gums. And I've got 4 teeth that are going to take some drilling and filling. But, after it's all over, I should be able to chew with my right-side back teeth again. When I came home from the first visit, my wife even noticed that my teeth looked better already.

So, what does that have to do with anything? Well, it's not at all made up. But it does have quite the application.

How often do we find an excuse to avoid being involved with God's people? What excuses do we use? Moves? Money? Well, I can read the Bible myself, worship God adequately on my own?

Kind of like my teeth theory: I can brush, it'll be fine. Never mind that I wasn't always as faithful to brush as I should have been. Never mind that I've never flossed as an adult. (seriously. and I once dated a dentist's daughter, and nearly married her. She'd have killed me.)

So, after much scraping of little, tiny deposits that were killing my gums, and soon some drilling and filling in my teeth, I'll be much better off. And I'll have to start flossing. I can't bear the look on the hygenist's face if I tell her I didn't do it.

Spiritually, we need the same thing. First, we need to do our own personal routine with God, every day. We need to be in His word.

But we also need each other. We need accountability for our actions, and we need someone to take a look and see where we've got old, nasty buildup that needs to be removed. And we all need that. Don't think that the dentist is above laying the that chair and getting scraped! So, none of us is beyond the need.

We also need, as churches, to think a little more deeply when it comes to providing for believers. I got, from the dentist, a little baggy with a toothbrush, a thing of toothpaste, a little plastic container of, I'm assuming, floss. Now, I was told what to do with all of these things, but was simply sent out with the good hope I'll do it right.

Which, if I don't, they'll see the results in 6 months and correct me. What do we do as churches? How often do we hand new believers a Bible, send them out, and hope it works out? How many of us have, as a church tradition, the habit of giving high school graduates a Bible and sending them out? And what do we do? We wait for months and see how it comes out...

And what do we get?

What do we get with lives that aren't well trained for their own maintenance?

The truth is, the dentist doesn't want to see me every day. He wants me to brush. As a pastor, I don't want to be your sole source of Biblical truth. I want you to read the Word of God, and let the Holy Spirit guide you into truth. The dentist will be glad to answer questions and help with issues, and as a pastor, I'm glad to do the same. I'm glad to help with the process of growth, but can't be the sole actor for you in it, any more than your dentist will brush every day. We need the accountability of showing up and having people say "Have you been doing...." just like I'll have to answer whether or not I brushed and flossed.

Accountability for our personal actions towards growth. This is what we need. As churches, we need to provide the tools, but also be the place of accountability.

Sorry this has rambled. There were several thoughts I had yesterday, and I wanted to convey them all....



  1. Just a word of warning. While he has you in the chair and are unable to leave since your lower lip feels as if it is around your toes,you will get a "preaching" about coming to the dentist regularly. It was just 5 years between my visits. I'll be praying for you!

  2. I got that Wednesday while I was there. That general, well, you know, you could have just waited a little while longer and we could pull them all and give you dentures speech.

  3. Doug,

    That is a most excellent analogy! I especially appreciate your comment that the dentist doesn't want to see you every day any more than your pastor wants to be your only source of Biblical truth.

    Let us all learn to clean our own teeth :0)


  4. P.S. AND submit to the dentist's/Pastor's work.


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