It’s Thanksgiving afternoon and I’m sitting in the kitchen with a nice hot cup of coffee in one had and my laptop perched on my crossed legs. Mom and a close friend are peeling carrots for a very delicious carrot salad – the turkey is in the oven, smelling delicious already. In about 3 hours our house will be buzzing with over 20 guests; friends and friends of friends who need a home to come to for Thanksgiving – and ours is always open. Jesus knew the value of hospitality, and I’m learning about His continually open heart through having a continually open home. It’s not always easy, but I feel I’m slowly learning what it means to “count it all joy.”
In the middle of October I started experiencing crippling pain in my jaw. I couldn’t open my mouth to sing without feeling like a needle was twisting in the left side of my mouth. After going to the doctor and learning that I did not have TMJ (thank-God) he informed me that I was under great stress which had allowed infection to grow near my impacted wisdom tooth and in light of that needed to be removed ASAP. The insurance agency called me a week later and gave me the address of a dentist to see.
A few hours later I arrive at a small dentist office. I greet the receptionist hoping she might speak English, but I’m out of luck, no English. So she directs me to wait, I wonder if I’ll fill out forms or what I do, or how long I’ll wait, or what they might do to my tooth, or how would I tell them what was wrong. Just then a large Russian woman comes out to greet me. Apparently she’s my dentist. She directs me to a small room with seemingly dirty appliances. I cringe, but take a deep breath, and think about God’s peace like a warm coat wrapped around me. In very broken English she asks me where I hurt, I say, my jaw. She takes a quick x-ray of my jaw and then tells me, “we will pull your tooth.” “Now?” I ask with trepidation. She nods her head and starts pulling our her dental tools for the procedure. She tells me to relax and she holds the needles up in the air. Is she joking? I can barely breathe, let alone relax. But then I think about the pain I’ve been in for the last two weeks and I shut my eyes and start to breathe slowly, thinking that the momentary pain of having my tooth pulled is really small compared to what I‘ve been living with the last month. She leaves the room and says she’ll be back in ten minutes. I wait, I feel the Novocain tingling my mouth. While she’s gone my imaginations starts to run amuck. My dentist didn’t explain how she would pull my tooth, I’ve never had my tooth pulled, I’m dramatic as it is, so you can imagine the dark story that was playing out in my head. I put my hands in my pocket to keep them from noticeably shaking. Just then my dentist came in. At this point I shut my eyes, after some poking and prodding, asking me if I can feel this or that, she pulls my wisdom tooth out. I hear the most ungodly noise, it’s the tooth being ripped from the jaw bone, it’s over in about 15 seconds. My dentist informs me that I can open my eyes now. After a very brief explanation of how to treat my mouth I’m out the door.
Outside, I giggle to myself in relief and in silly embarrassment for how childish I was. And then I wonder how desperate we are as humans to avoid pain. Sometimes the fear of the pain is worse than the actuality of the pain. How long do we live with issues of often intolerable hurt in our life because the fear of dealing with the root of it is greater than the pain itself? I asked myself these questions that day, and I continue to ask them. God touch the root of pain in my heart, I don’t want to live with hurt in my life. I want to be whole and healthy. I want a heart that’s not afraid of healing.