What the Dentist Taught Me About Mercy and Grace

Twice a year I get a text message reminder, or what I like to refer to as a text message warning, that says, “Tiffany you have a dentist appointment next week. Please reply YES to confirm.” Fortunately, I love my dentist, but unfortunately my freak out starts to flare up realizing I have spent 6 months absolutely averse to flossing and now have to condense 6 months of negligence into one week of nurturing every nook and cranny between my teeth. More often than not, I realize it’s a waste of my effort and I just brush my teeth four times the day of my appointment unequivocally convinced that will erase any signs of neglect over the past six months of forgetting to floss. I cram my dental hygiene routine into my one-day remedy hoping to compensate for what should have been maintained daily.

I saunter up to the dental chair, lay down under the fluorescent light that doubles as an interrogation lamp and confess, “I have braced myself for a lecture. I know my teeth are going to fall out, and I will end up looking like my grandpa Bingo who is only capable of eating soft, cod with his lone chomper.” The dental hygienist laughs at me and says, “Okay, I won’t lecture you then.”

“Wait, WHAT? Is this a trap? I am not going to get a lecture about how I need to take better care of my teeth otherwise they will disintegrate and fall out? I am not going to be told about gingivitis and how it will devour my teeth and mouth over time if I don’t get my act together?”

This might be TMI for you guys, but my gums are INFECTED. Yes, I know you won’t be able to look at me the same way ever again. You are sick to your stomach imagining the infection infiltrating my precious gums. Here’s the worse part, they’ve been infected for some time. Please don’t send me a toothbrush. I have one, and an electric one at that.

Now, I deserved a lecture. But I had received lengthy lectures before, and it obviously wasn’t producing the intended results. This time, I was shown mercy when the dental hygienist didn’t judge my lack of upkeep on my dental real estate, but instead took it a step further and showed me grace. My dentist agreed my gums were infected but she just went to work cleaning out every spot of calculus congregating between my teeth and gums. It was uncomfortable and slightly painful, but I knew what I would gain when she was done scraping tarter off my teeth would be worth it.

I learned a valuable lesson of accepting and showing grace. The truth is my teeth are infected. The truth is people are hurting from emotional, spiritual and physical infections too. I can’t ignore the state of my condition, but I can address it with grace instead of shame. I have a choice. I can be like the dentist that says, “Your teeth are a lost cause unless by some miracle you get your act together, but at this point it looks dismal.” Or I can be like the dentist that says, “Hey, I’ve given you clean slate. You don’t have to get used to your gums bleeding. That’s doesn’t have to be a constant in your life. You have the opportunity to start fresh. I am rooting for you!” Because when I come to Jesus completely surrendered offering to him the truths hidden in my heart, He never swallows me up in shame, but lavishes me in His love.

You know what happened? I became overwhelmed with gratitude for the mercy and grace given to me that I thanked my dentist repeatedly. It didn’t stop at thankfulness, because after having an encounter with mercy and grace that usually compels me to change directions. My life begins to reflect the second chance bestowed on me. I started to floss and use Listerine consistently, because I was motivated not by shame and guilt but by LOVE and GRACE. I no longer have to live the life labeled as an absentee flosser overcome by infection, but can be defined as a fervent flosser who conquered gingivitis and now has healthy gums. I must become who my Father says I am, not what the world tries to label me as. He holds the script to my life and I can’t allow anybody else to scribble in their own scenes.

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