Trading Death and Decay for Life
I have had two wisdom teeth extracted. Because the experience was a bit unpleasant, I decided to wait a while before having the remaining two pulled.
“A while” turned into 21 years, and my dentist now says these wise old-timers must go.
In spite of regular brushing, flossing, taking calcium and even whitening my front teeth, they must go. There is nothing I could have done to avoid this; my doctor says the very nature of these inconspicuous, nonessential, inexplicably corrupted teeth demands that they go. (Can you tell I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the whole wisdom tooth concept?)
As I stopped on my way out to make the fateful appointment, the office worker said, “It’s your lucky day. We have an opening Friday morning at 8:30. You want it?”
I didn’t feel lucky. It all felt so sudden. I mean, I had only known this day was coming for 21 years.
Driving home, I kept hearing the doctor say, “It’s the nature of the tooth, its anatomy, its physiology. It’s malformed.”
Something being naturally bad made me think of sin.
I remembered a time when I had sin in my life similar to these teeth. I kept my secrets tucked so far back into the recesses of who I was that no one knew they were there. I practiced all of the spiritual disciplines that we are encouraged to, such as reading scripture, attending church and serving others, but still, I held that corrupted piece of me back, thinking, “I’ll take care of this at the right time, just not yet.”
Eventually I realized that as long as I held back one unconfessed, unrepented sin, all the “whitening” in the world (the aforementioned disciplines) were either just for show, or half-hearted, prideful attempt to fix to a serious problem, or attempts to carry on as usual, denying the state of my heart. It was painful to uncover some hidden things and let go of long-held anger, but it was necessary. And in the end, it was the best thing for me.
Anyway, tomorrow--out they go.
I know I’m going to experience some discomfort. But I do trust this surgeon. He doesn’t appear to have a sadistic bone in his body; in fact, he seems to genuinely care about me as a person. He listened to all my fears and reassured me. I think I’m in good hands.
Likewise, I know that when I release my grip on some ancient unpleasant memory or grudge, at first, it won’t feel good. I might feel like I’ve “lost” somehow. But that’s just not the truth. The truth is, I need to be set free of the decaying force in my life.
And I do trust in my God. He is 100% for me. He wants to excise that which harms me and drives a wedge between the two of us. When I’m scared to turn over my hang-ups and grudges to him, he listens to my fears and reassures me. The truth is, He is the only one who can set me free; I cannot help myself. I will always need a Savior.
And so I’m reminded of two scriptures as I process this ordeal. The first is Matthew 23:27, “You Pharisees and teachers are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You're like tombs that have been whitewashed. On the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth.” The second is Isaiah 1:18: “I, the LORD, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow.”
Lord, I know that I was born with a natural inclination toward sin, even though I hate its many-faceted destructive consequences. I know that you will always show me what needs to be cleansed in my life if I will open my eyes to your guidance. When I’m afraid to change, help me to remember and trust in your goodness and unfailing kindness toward me. Extract the things that hold me prisoner and rot my inner being. I want to be pure from the inside out. No man can purify or save himself, and I look to you as my only saving grace. I give you all my secrets, shame and sorrow, and I receive the forgiveness and cleansing you offer. Thank you for taking my decay and giving me life; thank you for taking my sorrow and giving me joy.
Please visit me (and feel free to bring milkshakes!) at 2nd cup of coffee.