I went to the dentist this morning and had my teeth cleaned. I do that twice a year, although I have to be reminded and I don't really relish the visits.
There is something about going to the dentist that conjures up sounds of drills and threats of needles for novacaine. I suppose it is not insignificant that the rate of suicide amongst dentists is one of the highest amongst professionals. No one wants to pay that much for the pain they inflict (it really isn't that bad!) and we probably only visit when we are compelled by the undulating pain of a sore tooth that won't go away.
The dental hygenist I see is friendly and "chatty". It is obviously a one-way conversation because it is difficult to do much more than make gutteral sounds when there are cleaning utensils in your mouth. Still, she makes me confortable and extricates the unwanted contaminants from my mouth (I manage to produce a certain amount of plaque each visit) with a minimal amount of discomfort.
When she is done, she polishes my teeth and hands me a plastic bag of "goodies" including dental floss, a tooth brush of my own choosing (I always chose blue, reflective of my dental mood), and other "equipment" for insuring maximum dental care.
Today I also had x-rays and a visit with my dentist friend who reaffirmed the uncompleted work he wants to do that I have been avoiding. He reminds me of the discount he is offering me, the insurance monies I have yet to utilize this year, and smiles as he pushes me towards towards the one who schedules my next appointment.
What I took from the dental visit today--in addition to my "goody bag"--was the good news that my teeth are in great shape because I have been following the daily disciplines suggested, i.e. brushing my teeth, flossing, avoiding sugary drinks, etc.
There is much about the dental visit that seems similar to some of our spiritual disciplines.
1. They are painful.
2. They are costly.
3. They take time.
4. They demand a degree of consistency.
5. They are usually done where no one else can see us.
I confess that it is not always easy to get out of bed early every day, grab my coffee, and sit down to read my Bible. Praying coherently with my wife is also a challenge some days. Journaling about my life is another daily discipline I have chosen and there are days I cannot write a word willingly.
But, when I leave my place of study and prayer, and when I have finished my journaling--no matter how hard the task may have been--I almost always feel better...and "cleaner", because of my time with the Lord.
I am smiling today. My teeth are a bit brighter, my mouth feels clean, and I got a good report from the dentist.
And my insurance paid the bill! How can you beat that!