How Do I Return to Abiding?

I go to the dentist. A lot.

Weak teeth are a genetic trait in my family. I could go into all of the detail of my mouth and how I have landed my own time share at dental offices, but it’s pretty boring stuff. Suffice it to say, I spend a lot of quality time with my dentist.

I have had good dentists and bad dentists. Some office staffs treated me well, and some have left a lot to be desired. My current dentist is a good one, and his office staff is helpful and kind. Since my teeth are a huge source of discomfort and shame for me, feeling cared for at my dental office is important.

I was thinking of this recently, lying in yet another dental chair, sucking in gas to keep me from panicking or gagging. Most dentists have TVs over their chairs now, but I don’t care to watch them. Instead, I close my eyes. I try to breath evenly. I count to 100 in Spanish while mentally drawing the numbers to match the words. It’s somewhat meditative if you take away the needles and drills and spit.

On this particular day, I was having a bridge put in, replacing a tooth I lost a few years ago. I was feeling grateful to my dentist and hygienist, because I have spent years hiding that hole in my mouth. Now that I have a tooth there, I’m trying to break the habit of pulling my top lip down over my teeth when I smile. I can quit holding a hand in front of my mouth when I laugh.

I was happy.

But I was also sore. Three weeks earlier, I had the work done to prepare for this bridge, and it took two full weeks to quit hurting. My jaw ached. My gums were raw and tender.

It occurred to me, lying with my lips stretched and my mouth full of cotton, that you have to trust your dentist.

I can’t see what he is doing inside my mouth. Even if you handed me a mirror, his actions make little sense to me. I looked up dental bridges before getting mine, hoping to understand the process. I like knowing what’s going on. I got the concept, but the pictures and vocabulary didn’t stick. My dentist kept saying words that made no sense to me. I speak English and some Spanish, but not a lick of dent-ish.

When I am lying there, I am essentially tied to the chair with a gas-delivering tube. I am basically drunk, and he could do just about anything to my teeth without my being any the wiser. He could fix one problem and cause another just to ensure I would land back in his chair.

I didn’t feel afraid.

It turns out, I trust my dentist. He has a history of taking care of me, of treating me well, of getting good results.

In my gas-soaked brain, I connected this level of trust with the concept of abiding. Abiding in God, sticking with Jesus through the tough stuff, means I have to trust.

The times in my life that have been the hardest have been the times I lost my trust in who God is. I questioned His love for me, and the result was terrifying.

Lately, I am finding my hands reaching for Jesus again. I am remembering all of the times He took care of me when I was abiding in Him. Sometimes, it hurt. Just like my jaw ached after the bridge work, my spirit has ached from some life experiences. I look back and see how those chafing times, when someone’s words or actions cut me to the quick, healed and made me better. They prepared the way for something new, something good, something that would make it easier for me to smile.

Abiding in God is hard for me. It feels like letting go. It is letting go … letting go of my control, or the illusion that I have any control.

There was nothing I could have done to replace my lost tooth. I don’t have the tools or the know-how to fix my own mouth. I need a dentist for that. I need a dentist I trust.

There is also nothing I can do to fix my own life. I don’t have the tools or the know how to pave my own path. When I try, I only make a mess of things.

I need God for that. I need a God I can trust, a God who has gotten results time and time again.


Are you struggling, like me, to trust Jesus with decisions about your future? Are you struggling to trust Jesus with the smaller decisions, the daily ins and outs of living?

If so, take a moment and look back. Has Jesus proven trustworthy in the past? Have you felt sore like this before? How did that turn out?

You may find you can trust Him after all.


*originally published on Middle Places


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