Wednesday, June 07, 2006
In the Dentist Chair and in the Pew
Bright and early this morning I went to the dentist for a cleaning and check up.
If you have been reading here for a while you know that we like to dress up and play a grownup version of "let's pretend." As part of that I have seen the implements of torture used by "dentists" in the 1700s. Just looking at them makes my insides curl up, and I know I would have to be experiencing pain at an absolutely unbearable level to let someone put those things in my mouth.
Consequently, I have thanked God more than once for the wonders of modern dentisty. Seriously. Thanks be to the Lord for numbing agents, for high-speed drills, for crowns, and bonding fillings, etc. Going to the dentist is a relatively pain-free experience, most of the time anyway.
But...eveyone still seems to dread going.
I ponder that this morning as I sit in the waiting room reaading about creative egg-dying ideas for Easter. Why is the reading material always outdated? Why does my stomach feel a little queasy and why do I need to make two trips to the restroom? This is no big deal...no big deal...no big deal. Sheesh, what is taking them so long? I hate those drilling noises.
My turn. Okay. Not a root canal, for goodness sake. Just a cleaning and another very minor little problem to deal with. I'm a grown-up.
The nice dental hygenist, hereafter known as DH, chats brightly about the weather as she lowers the chair. And lowers it a bit more. And a bit more. My feet are now a little higher than my head! Bright light on--right in my eyes--and the receptionist destracts her with a question...ooww. My eyes squint. Okay, now she has it shining on my mouth. Whew.
DH: "Time for a couple of x-rays." In goes that hard plastic thingy, pressing painfulluy into the soft tissue under my tongue.
DH: "Hold very still."
SO: (thinking..."Owww, that knife-like plastic is pushing into the floor of my mouth...wow, it is bleeding a little...waaah")
DH: "Good! All done...So, life is good? Open your mouth please."
SO: Opens mouth, nods head
DH: "Wider please."
SO: Opens mouth wider
SO: (thinking..."What is so great about it?")
DH: "I haven't seen you for awhile."
SO: "Mmmffffphh" (thinking..."I don't come here to hang out")
DH: scrape, scrape, scrape, poke,, SCRAAAAAPE, scrape, scrape, POKE!
DH: "Oh, sorry. Did that hurt?"
SO: "It's okay, just a bit sensitive." (thinking..."You just stabbed me in the gum with that sharp instrument, you nincompoop. I'm bleeding again.")
DH: "Hmmm, little bleeding here....Have you been flossing?"
SO "Mmmpffph" (blinks eyes twice for yes, feeling like a recovering accident victim))
DH: "I want to ask you a question."
SO: (Clearly on the defensive, thinks, "Oh shoot, what am I doing wrong now? I'm flossing, I'm brushing, I'm avoiding candy....") "Umm...sure."
DH: "What is an appropriate amount to pay a minister for doing a wedding?"
We have a short discussion about clergy fees and her upcoming wedding. Then she gets back to work. By now I am acutely uncomfortable. I do not like having my feet higher than my head. I do not like the bright light. I do not like the splashing water on my face and glasses. I do not like the shap pokey instrument. I DO NOT LIKE having my mouth wide open. My head is starting to throb and my nose itches incessently. Why does my nose always do that when I'm in the dentist chair? The DH keeps scraping and poking and then flossing and then puts chalky stuff in my mouth and polishes my teeth. Bzzzzzz...chalk kind of makes me gaggy.
I know my teeth must be cleaned, and I like it when they are polished. Done. Okay then.
The dentist comes in. "Which one?" he says to the assistant, who replies with something about the #90 bicuspid, I think. (Ninety?) He checks my teeth over and fixes the minor problem with his drill. Rrrrrrrrrrrrr.....Ugh, nasty sound and nasty smell. But painless. No big deal. He tells me I am doing a great job, pats my arm and asks about my son and his teeth.
I make my appointment to come back in six months. "Bye. Have a nice day."
Not so bad. Why was it something I dread so much?
"It is not the pain, which is really pretty minimal" I think. "It's not that they are not very nice people. They are friendly, reasonably competent, and the office is nicely decorated, if a bit dated..."
It is that I feel like a victim. Sitting in a chair with my feet higher than my head has me feeling that way before anything even happes. I don't like having a body orifice viewed and prodded by a stranger, even if it is only my tongue and teeth and tonsils they are seeing. I don't like that they are doing things I don't quite get. I want to know why they do certain things. It is their world, and I enter it for a while to go through something necessary but unfamilar and uncomfortable and a bit humiliating. I have no power at all when I am in the dentist chair. I hate feeling trapped.
Now I'm thinking about church.
I think there may be reasons why we see some people every six months, and perhaps it is not always about them not wanting much of God in their lives. Is the reason some people feel uncomfortable in church similar in some ways? I do, after all, like having clean teeth. But I am also very glad that I don't have to return to that chair anytime soon. Do we do things that make people uneasy from the get-go? Do we use words they don't understand? Do they feel like they are entering our territory to get a little help from us but don't want to hang out because it is not a pleasant place to be?
Sometimes GOD makes people uncomfortable. Part of the job description of the Holy Spirit is to "convict" and that usually is not comfortable. But do we make people feel uncomfortable? Do we talk to them not realizing they can't answer us? Do we put them in an uncomfortable position? Are we friendly and cheerful but also impersonal? Do we have all the power? Do visitors feel trapped?
Are there ways we can empower new people in appropriately? I don't know if I'm on to something or if I am just short on sleep.
What do you think?