I think I am safe to assume that most of us would not rank a visit to the dentist as one of our favorite things to do. The annual or semi-annual ritual of having ones teeth cleaned can put even the most detailed person on edge. Afterall, the visit really is a report card of the progress of our daily regime of brushing, flossing and laying off the sweets…or lack of. Personally, I have experienced the good and the bad of an office visit to the dentist. The bad included the final demise of a tooth that had a root canal many years ago, cracking in half years after that and finally progressing to the point that it had to be pulled. Many of you may be squirming in your chair at this point…I have to admit, it makes me uncomfortable even thinking about it.
Why would I talk about such an uncomfortable subject? Well, this week included and annual visit for Matthew to University of Michigan Dental Clinic to get his teeth cleaned. There is no way to prep Matthew for this visit. He simply does not understand that it is for his own good…Yeah, we have all heard that before…”it is for your own good” or “this will hurt me more than it will you”. A trip for Matthew to the dentist either includes sedation, which is not always a good thing for him, or the dreaded Papoose Board. A device that wraps the body to a board so arms and legs cannot hurt the person or the people working on them. Matthew hates this Papoose thing…He does recover quickly though and in no time at all he is back to the normal Matthew.
After this visit I was pondering the whole dentist experience…and how very different it was for Matthew in the Spring of this year when we made an “emergency” visit to our local dentist. Matthew was constantly pulling at a tooth that was being pushed out by his adult teeth coming in. It was at a grotesque angle and appeared to be incredibly painful. After many attempts to take care of it on our own we scheduled an office visit. It took only a few minutes, with no sedation, numbing or Papoose to pull the tooth out. I can only say that Matthew was giddy and happy and carried and played with his little tooth box for the rest of the night.
A strange contrast of visits to the dentist…one willingly, one not so willingly. You may be wondering where I am going with this…Well, I could not ignore the similarity of the situations of when God is at work in our lives. Sometimes when we are hurting or have an intense focus on a situation or event in our lives we willingly go to our Father and ask for his help and beg for him to do something to make the pain go away. But, what about the times that God allows things to run their course and bad things do happen and it seems as if God cannot hear you or is just not listening? Those are the unwilling times that the Father is at work, shaping and forming us…the times that are for our own good…the times that the experience will make us a better, stronger person.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
I have to admit, the words “pure joy” wouldn’t be the first to come to my lips when I am facing a trial. With experience though comes wisdom and as I get older and I would like to think that I am becoming more mature. The following quote is a great companion to the words from James:
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” Helen Keller
I read an illustration a few months ago about how when we intervene with nature, even when we think we are doing something good, can have devastating results. The illustration was about how the butterfly breaks open the cocoon and enters the world to show the beauty of its wings. If you watched a butterfly do this you would by instinct want to help. It can take hours for the process to happen and one would just want to peel back the cocoon and release the butterfly. But, by doing so would be tragic and fatal for the butterfly. You see, it is through the struggle of breaking apart the cocoon that the wings are strengthened and the butterfly is able to fly.
So, when you face your next trial what will it be…willing or unwilling? Most of the time it is just a matter of attitude.