It’s not often someone tells me to open my mouth, but that’s exactly what happened the other day.
“Just a little wider,” urged my dentist, Dr. Byrd. Under other circumstances, I would have spent several minutes making clever quips about the man’s last name, such as “I suppose the money I pay you is for the Byrds, huh?” But it’s hard to speak clearly with someone’s hands in my mouth, so I just sat back and let Dr. Byrd take X-rays of my molars.
Actually, it was his lovely assistant, Ellie, who shot me full of radiation. Dr. Byrd himself, however, was about to shoot me full of painkiller.
“What you’ve got is a leaking gold filling,” he commented. Then with great zest he plunged a 12-inch railroad spike deep into my gums. I struggled to retain my usual composure, not to mention my Christian vocabulary. Only later did I realize that the railroad spike was a needle filled with a nerve-deadening agent.
Dr. Byrd left the room as the entire right side of my mouth began drooping like a bassett hound’s. I presume he made his exit to avoid laughing in my face at such a sight.
A few minutes later he reappeared. “Does it feel like you’re ready?” he asked.
“Uh thin da med sin muz be wor ken,” I responded.
The dentist once again began to leave, but quickly regained control of himself.
“All right, then let’s get to it.” With that Dr. Byrd began shouting instructions to Ellie.
“Give me the 25-pound pickax. Good. Now the jackhammer. OK, is that Uzi submachine gun still around here someplace?” These instructions, or at least something close to them, flew from the dentist’s lips in rapid-fire fashion.
Meanwhile, I was catching glimpses of Rachael Ray’s cooking show on the overhead TV. Rachael was OK, but some of her guests’ inane drivel was more painful than the 12-inch railroad spike needle.
“Well, that’s about it,” Dr. Byrd announced a bit later. He stood up from his dental stool, said goodbye, and left to see his next patient.
Later on I thought about the whole episode (dental pain, not the Rachael Ray Show). The whole thing reminded me that sometimes you gotta accept a little pain to see lasting results. The same is true in the spiritual life.
My dentist is as gentle as the next one, maybe even more so. But any way you look at it, getting to the root of a tooth problem like mine was going to involve some discomfort. Since I trust Dr. Byrd, I know he has my best interest at heart, so I just let him do his thing. In the end I have confidence that my smile will be brighter because of it.
That’s the way it should be in our spiritual lives too. Jesus uses the illustration of “pruning” to help us understand this concept: God “cuts off every branch [ouch!] in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes [ouch!] so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:2).
A little pain, a lot of gain.
Sorta like going to the dentist.