It started a long time ago, a fateful day that set me on a path of fear, loathing and faithlessness.
My dad, who is a pastor, was going to a prayer meeting. It wasn’t with the church or the board of the church. In fact, I don’t remember or recall recognizing any of the people that were there. It must have been some district prayer meeting, or one that my dad happened to be invited to.
While that is uncertain, what I am certain of is this, my dad invited me along.
I was the only kid at an all adult prayer meeting. I can still hear the little child version of me thinking, “Oh dear, this is going to be a long, boring night.”
It wasn’t. In fact it changed my life forever. In the weirdest and possibly most destructive way possible.
I don’t remember what the prayer meeting gathered for, but I do remember that we started praying for something very specific.
We wanted the Spirit to reveal to us what body part we were in the Body of Christ. We desired to know what function we played in the church, for God, not our own thoughts or ideas.
It was a new idea to me as a kid, and even now I can say with full confidence, I have never prayed that again. Maybe that is something to fix.
Anyways, we went around the room praying for this man and that lady. As they were sitting in the “hot seat”, the Spirit revealed to us all what body part they were.
This man was an eye, a vision caster, a dreamer, the guy that could see what going to happen and move to prevent it. Or see what needed to be done and do it.
This woman was a hand, a servant, a giver, the lady that made the sweets to go with coffee for visitors. Or she would be the one knitting mittens for the new born baby.
We went around the room, prayed over all the adults. For most of this I sat in the corner. Not really praying, but quietly and respectfully watching to see what God was revealing. The night was just about over when one old lady looked at me and said in unison with fate, “It’s your turn.”
I nervously moved into the “hot seat”. I didn’t know what to expect. I was a kid. Did God already have a place for me in the Body? What if I turned out to be the thumb? What would that mean? What if I was some other strange body part?
These and a million thoughts like it raced through my head. People started praying in tongues, laying hands on me, staring intently at me while I bowed my head.
Someone said something and it caused me to smile. And in response to that smile, a woman said this.
“That’s it! That’s what part you are. Reggie, I was seeing a mouth and I wasn’t sure what it meant, if you were the tongue or what. But when you smiled. That smile, those teeth.
“That’s what part of the body you are. You are the teeth. Through you, the things that you will say, you will chew and spit out the enemy and his lies. You will chew up and help others digest the Word of Truth.
“You are teeth.”
Now, I will admit, that is a strange thing to hear. Especially as a kid. But that prayer meeting has had a major effect on me. And it has effected my faith, and how I feel about dentists.
Despite my being the spiritual teeth in the spiritual Body of Christ, my physical teeth are not the greatest. I have a nice smile, but I am afflicted with sensitive teeth and a family history of bad teeth. It isn’t that I don’t brush, it isn’t that I drink tons of pop or coffee. I just have bad teeth.
At some point, between that fateful prayer meeting and the dentist chair, I made a fatal mistake.
I linked my spiritual body part to my physical body part. I started to associate my spiritual health and well being to my physical health and well being. I started to think that my physical teeth had the power to influence and infect my spiritual teeth.
This may be the craziest thing you have ever heard of. Believe me, writing this down, processing what I actually did makes me feel like quite the fool.
But I did it.I linked the two together. And for a long time, the one effected the other.
So when I did go to the dentist, and he would tell me that I had sensitive teeth, or that I had a cavity that needed to be fixed or a tooth had to be pulled, I associated it with my spiritual health.
I must be a terrible Christian, I must be failing as teeth in the Body of Christ, because that is falling apart. I must be sinning and this is God’s way of telling me because this tooth needs to be capped.
I started to hate dentists. I already didn’t like them for the obvious reason. It’s the dentist. They sit there with their face in your mouth and tell you that you aren’t brushing enough or flossing enough or you drink too much pop or eat too much sugar. They stab you in the mouth with a dozen freezing needles, only to still feel the pain of the drill on your tooth. Then they steal all your hard earned money with expensive procedures. And to top it off, you can’t talk or eat anything for hours after you visit.
But I started hating the dentist because it made me feel like I was a terrible Christian. It made me feel like I was faltering and failing God and the faith community around me. I felt like I was a disappointment. So I avoided the dentist as long as I could.
It came to a point where I didn’t even need to think about the dentist to stir up in me a foul mood or a foul spirit. If I saw someone with perfect teeth or a brilliant white smile, it would throw me into a mental frenzy. I would go over and over how bad my smile was, how I was “cursed” with bad genetics and sensitive teeth. I would have mental yelling matches with God, I would tell him how upset I was about this state of affairs. I would scream inside of my spirit how I desperately wanted to be healed of this dental affliction.
It messed up my faith. It screwed up my relationship with God.
I always wondered if there was some secret sin that I was being punished for. If there was something that I had not acknowledged that was eating away at my body. A good chunk of my prayer life became a plea for healed teeth, and nothing more.
I don’t have to tell you how unhealthy that is, how dysfunctional that is for a Christian. But that was my life, and in some respects still is.
That brings us up to speed, up to the present.
But things are starting to change.
I just scheduled a new dentist appointment, and I am nervous about it.
I still am not fond of the dentist. I’m sure there will still be needles and the speech about sensitive teeth and my need to avoid sugar and pop. I’m sure I’ll feel bad that my genetics leaves me in a bad place where I am prone to have faulty teeth.
However, I am altering how I think about a few things.
One, my spiritual condition is not so connected to my physical condition.
Yes, what happens to my body can and does affect my mood, how I pray, how I relate to the spiritual realm, but not like I once thought.
If my teeth are falling out of my head that does not have any bearing on whether I am sinning or not. Teeth fall out. Teeth rot. Teeth get chipped and broken. Unfortunately that is part of the cost of living in a fallen, sinful world.
In cases like mine, I need to come to terms with that. Bad teeth is not something that I have brought on myself, but something that has happened to me. I am not the cause of this, unless I was totally negligent in brushing and taking care of them. Sometimes bad things happen to people, good people and bad people. It happens to the very faithful and pious. It happens to the evil and wicked.
“for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45 NIV).”
Two, God is always faithful.
What I have come to realize more and more in my life, related to my teeth and other areas, is that God always comes through. God always makes a way or finds a way to make the impossible reality. And it isn’t always in big, flashy ways.
God has made it possible for me to live without terrible teeth by having dentists being a thing that exists. God has made it possible for me to have a bright white smile by having bleach and Crest White Strips exist. God has made it possible for me to not live with a terrible reminder of my broken and sinful nature by having a profession exist that works in redeeming and cleaning and restoring that which is broken, stained and missing.
And not only has He made it possible, by creating and inspiring others to invent the things I need for better and healthier teeth, but He is faithful to provide so I can get those things done.
God has been faithful in providing me with a dentist that is not a crook. Yes, dentists are not cheap, but this one is not trying to rob me blind. He is fairly priced.
God has been faithful in providing for me by blessing my wife and I with jobs. We have the money to pay for dental work, money to cover whatever expenses that we may have. On top of that, we have seen God faithful because we can afford insurance to help off set the dental cost so that we are not broke at the end of the day.
God is faithful not only in creating dentistry and oral hygiene products, but also in ways like giving us the finances to take care of the bills that come with it.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19 ESV).”
Three, dentists are not the enemy.
As much as we all may think that dentists are the spawns of Satan, reality paints a very different picture.
Dentists are here to serve you. They are a part of the goods and service industry. They are here to help you. They exist for those people with bad teeth. They took classes for years, practiced and memorized the human mouth, all the teeth you have, so that you will be taken care of and made whole again.
You can complain about the price of dentists, and yes they are expensive, but that isn’t the issue. Just as a point of juxtaposition, think about the hundreds of dollars that the average person blows week in and week out on numerous things that do not last. Movies, clothes, shoes, books, to name a few of the things that will not last as long as your teeth.
Dentists aren’t the enemy because they too are afflicted with having teeth. And just as I have bad teeth, there are dentists that have bad teeth. Theirs are sensitive and may fall out just like ours. They understand how much the needle hurts, how much the bill stings the wallet. They are human in every way that you are. And we need to remember that.
So, as I think about going to the dentist now, I am still nervous. I am still a little paranoid about what he may say. But I have learned these three things that will help me. Both on the physical and spiritual level, so that my dentist visits, my imagining of what will happen in the chair, will not cripple or destroy me or my faith.
If you have ever found yourself in a similar place, I hope that you will find encouragement and direction in what I have learned.
Where you are physically doesn’t equate to where you are spiritually.
God is always faithful, and will make a way for us.
Dentists are not the enemy, but are human and suffer just like we do.