The Wisdom of a Toothache…

I quit going to the dentist about five years ago.

You know how it is when something is wrong but you don’t want to go through the hassle, pain, or discomfort of dealing with an issue and then working to get it fixed. Or how it is when people continue to nag you about fixing the problem because they know if you don’t deal with it…it won’t just resolve on its own.

I had a bad tooth for about ten years and I was tired of dentists telling me that I needed to get a crown. So what did I do? Did I deal with the problem? Of course not. I simply quit going to the dentist and then pretended there wasn’t a problem.

This naïve strategy worked out well for about eight years…but over the last two years it got to the point where I could no longer chew on that side of my mouth and could no longer tolerate any hot or cold sensation near that tooth. Ignoring the underlying problem did not fix it. It just prolonged the inevitable…and ultimately made it worse and even more painful to deal with.

Proving myself to be a real genius, I finally submitted to the reality that I could no longer tolerate the pain and discomfort of this cursed tooth and so I made the dreaded appointment.

Upon entering the room the dentist said, “You haven’t been here for the last five years.”

Indignantly I replied, “Yeah, well, I have purposely been avoiding you…and avoiding the inevitable. I knew I had a problem but I tried to ignore it- and you- for as long as it could, but I knew that ignoring the problem and avoiding you wouldn’t make it go away.”

She just smiled.

I don’t know why certain circumstances happen to people but I am convinced that there are always larger truths we can find in the most trivial of situations. Even in my stubbornness to get my tooth fixed I have found profound truth and understanding of our human condition- we have a tendency toward prolonging or avoiding pain because we believe it is too painful to deal with…but by avoiding it we prolong the inevitable and make it even more painful to deal with in the future.

The truth is that there is an epidemic of hurt, wounded, and broken people walking in our midst each day who are in real pain at their very core. You may even be one of them. But instead of being honest and coming to terms with the underlying issue that causes the pain in our lives…it is just easier for us to ignore it, camouflage it, and pretend as if it doesn’t exist while pushing away and avoiding those who want to help us.

The central issue is that the pain does exist. It won’t go away by ignoring it, building up walls around it, or by avoiding those who are trying to help us deal with it.

It is tough though. We live in an age in which it is just easier to build up walls around ourselves than it is to vulnerably open ourselves up. We believe that if we truly open ourselves up to others, or to God, it might be too painful to deal with. So instead we craftily construct the mighty facade…the false self…to keep others from getting too close and from seeing who we really are and what we are really dealing with. We construct the false self to prove to others…and to convince ourselves…that everything is ok.

We reason that if we could just make people think everything is good then maybe it really will be. We begin piecing together the false self who we convey to our “friends” on social media sites and we put on the false self with the way we play the charade when we are around others. The false self insures that no one can get too close.

But no matter how beautifully constructed and carefully crafted the false self is…the underlying pain persists, haunts, and hurts.

Instead of vulnerably opening ourselves up and laying ourselves down to the people who love us and to the God who can heal us, we hang on to the last vestige of pride that we can muster.

We stay wounded.

We continue to hurt.

And we remain painfully alone.

Life does not have to be this way.

If you are carrying around a wound and experiencing deep pain within your heart and soul…let me offer some advice. Ignoring the pain you are experiencing will not make it go away. Your wound will continue to fester and the gnawing pain will continue to radiate. No matter how much you try to dress it up or hide it…it will not go away.

Trust me when I tell you that the pain you are experiencing will only begin to wane when you begin to tear down the walls that surround your heart and allow God to come into the places you have blocked off for too long. Recognize and come to terms with your wounds and your brokenness and admit that you need healing. Admit that you need a light to break into the darkness, that you desperately need Life in this valley of the shadow of death where you have been walking. Willingly surrender and humbly confess to those who love you and to the God who can heal you…that you are broken and are in need of a Savior.

Why prolong the pain? He is waiting for you to invite him in…



John 4

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