Sometimes, God asks us to do hard things

I have had bad teeth my whole life. It’s genetics from the Moore lineage; Dad had terrible teeth. So, being plagued with this encumbrance I had a cavity when I was very young, maybe six or seven years old. That means it was in the early 1960s. There was no such thing as “gentle dental.” Dad ushered me into the cramped dentist room that smelled of chemicals, plopped me in a chair built for a full grown man and told me to sit still.

The poor dentist, we will call him Dr. Paine, assumed that his authority as a dentist, combined with Dad’s authority as my dad, carried enough weight that I, this small, harmless child, would merely submit to every command and edict he issued – oh how such little things can suddenly and without warning burst into apocalyptic events!

“Open your mouth”, said Dr. Paine. I opened. Dr. Paine selected a gleaming weapon and began his attack; I, being in the en garde (on guard) position, parried. Dr. Paine, thinking he was up for the challenge initiate a prise de fer (take the steel), not taking time to repost (trade-off). The fencing continued for a few minutes until my dad intervened, chiding me and then issuing the Allez (go) to Dr. Paine. Dr. Paine feinted an attack and then skillfully avoided my parry (deflect incoming attack) and reached the prized tooth, driving his rapier deep into my cavity. Pain exploded, sweat burst from pores I’d not known existed and, now fully restrained by Dad, I surrendered – but not quite. I still had one more fight in me.

Dr. Paine, having dug out the decay without anesthesia for neither he nor I, now decided the needle was necessary if he had any hope of filling this hard-won cavity. So, without consideration that I had never been to a dentist in my life, proceeded to select the largest, reusable syringe replete with silver finger holes, glass cylinder, and stainless steel plunger, no doubt previously used to put down rabid rhinos in Africa. 

Slowly he filled the syringe, flicking, occasionally, the garden hose sized needle to taunt me, believing I’d surrendered and he’d won the battle. The battle, yes, but not the war! I still had one fight in me. “Open”, commanded Dr. Paine. I opened. “Turn your head to the left.”, he barked. I didn’t turn,  eyes froze on the needle looming before me. “Very well”, Doc said. And he went in, straight, plunging his weapon deep into my gum. Immediately, with a skill no doubt drawn from warrior ancestors long past, I grabbed his hand and pulled the needle out. It was out! I was free! Victory, though short-lived, was mine.

Dr. Paine looked at Dad, Dad was angry; really angry. Doc said to Dad, “You’ll have to pay for another shot.” Now I knew all hope was lost. My victory had cost Dad hard earned cash. I was toast. Surrendered, focusing on the real pain I would experience when I got home, Dr. Paine was able to complete the procedure and I left his office with the first of my sixteen fillings I would receive in my life. As I left I pondered the war, replaying the parries, feints, doc’s prise de fer, and the real punishment I faced once home.

Dad was a great dad; he just didn’t have any tolerance when it came to fear of doctors. When Dad was a young boy, he was tongue-tied. My grandfather brought a doctor home. The doctor pulled a knife out of his pocket, had Dad open his mouth, a moment later, he was no longer tongue-tied, lots of blood but his condition was fixed. Dad expected no less from me.

I needed that cavity filled. Dad said it had to be filled. That was a hard message for a six-year-old kid, but it was because Dad loved me that he had me go through the pain. And, Dad was with me all the way through. 

When we read in the Bible about Joseph telling his Dad, Jacob, and his brothers that God had given him a dream where someday they would all bow down to him, that was a hard thing and not well received. Joseph’s Dad rebuked him, and his brothers were jealous. However, it says that Jacob kept this in his mind. (see Genesis 37:5-11).

As it was with Jacob, sometimes God says things that we have a difficult time accepting. When God speaks these hard things we should not pull back (e.g., not pull the syringe out) but do as Jacob did and keep them in mind. The Holy Spirit will speak to us. There will be peace for us. The meaning may still be difficult but we will be able to bear it for Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

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