CLERGY CORNER: Fearing going to the dentist & fearing going to church — two things you cannot afford to do

Posted on 12 July 2017 by LeslieM

One particular scene in the movie Deepwater Horizon is oddly convicting. Jimmy Harrell, while in command of the oil rig, voices his dissatisfaction to BP executives for skipping the necessary tests required to verify the integrity of the well—accusing them of playing dumb toward any problems that might further delay completion of the drilling. Jimmy aptly compares their motive to his grandfather’s logic about not going to the dentist in that he “never went to the dentist ‘cause he didn’t wanna know all that was wrong ‘cause then he’d have to deal with it.”

Up until last week, for 14 plus years, I confess that I evaded the dentist myself to deny what I knew I’d have to deal with: cavities. So I bit the bullet — with my good teeth — and scheduled an appointment.

I had two cavities in need of immediate care: one onlay and one crown. Post drilling and being fitted with my temporary cap, the dental hygienist listed all the foods I would have to abstain from until my permanent fitting — essentially my grocery list: pizza and chewy candy. One day later, the temporary cap fell victim to a Mike and Ike while watching Despicable Me 3. Whoops.

Thankfully, my dentist provided me with his personal cell and instructed me to call him if I experienced any problems —probably more for pain than stupidity. After an exhaustive Google search, it was apparent that I’d have to contact him. Flashbacks flooded my mind of my pediatric orthodontist towering over me with that disappointed look on his face each time I lost or destroyed a retainer. How would my new dentist respond?

While my thumbs were busy crafting a text message, I couldn’t help but feel burdensome for disturbing my new dentist on a Saturday. I hit send and awaited my fate. Moments later, I received a reply that started with “Hi buddy,” followed by a compassionate response. He even encouraged me to “reach out again if anything else comes up.” Whoa. And just like that all my false beliefs from childhood about going to the dentist vanished.

For many, the idea returning to church or going to church for the first time yields the similar emotions that I experienced about returning to the dentist: the fear of being judged; the pain that comes with change, etc. Yet, like my retainers, at some point we all find ourselves lost or broken knowing that we can no longer deny what’s wrong: the God-sized cavity in our heart, hoping we won’t have to deal with it.

We must recognize that it is Satan, the great deceiver, who is content to keep us deceived that we are not welcome in church or in the presence of God. He breathes life to those fears. Fear not! It is Jesus who said that “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

That’s the ultimate “Hi buddy” (relief) and embodiment of the compassion that should dispel the false narratives keeping us away from church and God. The ironic thing is that we take pride in our Instagram pics that don’t require a filter, while unaware that we’re filtering what we believe about church and God through our past experiences. To quote an old MADtv skit with Bob Newhart, “Stop it!” Colossians 3:1 reminds us that when we submit our hearts to Christ, we “have been raised to new life with Christ”— a life with the strength necessary to deal with — not avoid — the realities of life, and stand securely before God.

When I finally faced my reality, accepting that decay did exist, I knew there was nothing I could do except go to the one who could do something about it. Same goes for those of you considering returning to church or attending church for the first time. You don’t have to clean yourself up before returning or going. You just have to set aside any worry and go — like I did by going to the dentist; I had nothing — except my teeth.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@dfb.church.

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