Yesterday I went to the dentist. Time for my six month cleaning. No problem. I got this. No wait, not really.
Lately, I have had this personal challenge presented to me. Let’s call it a God theme, a reoccurring message which emphasizes something I feel personally convicted to work on. For me, the theme is I need to practice is to Embrace the Encounters I Experience.
In all honesty, I have had some seeds of reluctance that have sprouted and taken root in my heart. I have become a much more hesitant person over the last few years.
I have acquired an aversion to avoid certain situations and people more than I ever have before. I am struggling to commit to certain things or to make decisions in particular areas because I am anxious about how badly things will go.
The past few years have had some pretty back jarring bumps to them. Ones that I did not anticipate or see coming. My reaction to this has been to with withdraw and withhold.
My arms are tightly wrapped around my heart. Where there once was enthusiasm for experiencing life fully, is now a desire to keep a safe distance. Hesitancy has overcome hope a few too many times.
It’s really time for me to rip this reluctance out of my heart down to the roots. I’ve been getting these consistent nudges over the past few months. It’s like listening to gentle waves rolling into the shore.
I hear the word “reluctant” crash on the shore as the waves break. As the water is drawn back out I hear the word “embrace”. I have been standing barefoot on the shore watching and listening, from enough of a distance that my toes are not the least bit damp.
There is a part of me that wants to run in and feel the cool water splash my legs. I want to experience the movement of the waves. I want the laugh and glee that children have chasing the water and bouncing along with it.
But I’ve gone in before, those waves have knocked me down, soaked me, and left me frantically gasping for air. Those waves are trouble. You just never know when a tsunami or rogue wave is going to come crashing in. It is better to keep back a distance.
While I think a bit of reluctance can be a gift, the wisdom of thinking before acting, a pause before speaking, or proceeding with caution can be good, the area where I find myself is too far back.
It is time for me to Embrace the Encounters I Experience.
Back to yesterday’s dentist appointment. It was scheduled to be a routine cleaning, I did not even need x-rays. Piece of cake. Or so I thought that morning as I was driving to town.
My day was scheduled – coffee with a treasured friend, dentist appointment, lunch with another dear long time friend. What a great day to embrace the encounters I would experience.
You should know I have a very small mouth. Despite this limitation, I can be a pretty mighty talker.
In reality, my teeth are more than a bit crowded. I take care to make sure they are healthy, but they are a bit crooked. There’s not a whole lot of room for tools or fingers in this limited space as dental work happens. Are there fixes for this, certainly, but funding those fixes has not yet happened. It’s lower down on the list of things that need to be paid for in life.
Keep in mind that I am trying to embrace the experiences that I encounter. Coffee with my treasured friend was amazing. I even made it to the dentist a few minutes early for my appointment, even though I can severely lose track of time when with friends.
When I got all settled in the dentist chair I saw the hygienist had a bunch of colored daisies on her shelf. They were just beautiful!
As a side note, daisies are very important to me. Not only are they my favorite flower, I made a commitment with the Lord in 2008 that whenever I saw daisies I would pause and be reminded of His love for me. Do I have some crazy stories about when daisies show up in my life!
At this point embracing the encounters I am experiencing seems to be going great. I mean what could go wrong when there are daisies in the room with me?
Well, my dentist office has a new tool to scan all of the teeth in my mouth to create a very cool 3D image that can be saved with my dental records. Sounds awesome. Since it is new they are trying to get a baseline record established for all patients as they come in.
This awesome technology is supposed to eliminate the need for stuffing goo in one’s mouth if crowns or guards are needed. So far it sounds fabulous to me. No problem, I’m embracing the encounters I experience. Let’s do it.
The machine gets wheeled over and the wand part that goes in my mouth looks like it’s about the size of a regular candy bar. While I am a fan of stuffing candy bars in my mouth, at first glance this does not look like an enjoyable experience.
Really it was not a problem at first. But getting a good picture of the cheek side of my top teeth in the far back left hand side proved to be nearly impossible. I gagged more than a couple of times. I also wondered if my jaw could remain where it was suppose to be as fingers tugged my cheek one way, and this wand attempted to work its magic pressing the opposite way on my teeth.
At one point there was a dentist on one side, a hygienist on the other, and me in the middle wondering if I was going to need to visit a doctor for a dislocated jaw instead of having lunch today.
How does one embrace an encounter like this?
First, by crying out to God in my head. “Lord, please give my body the flexibility and resiliency to make it through this without anything being dislocated or broken.”
Then by remembering this is new process, new tool, and my mouth isn’t the easiest to work in due to its limitations.
When it was all done, I think my hygienist felt worse than I did. She had already apologized several times. She is a phenomenal hygienist. Truly, I think she is the best. So I did what I believe I was made to do. I tried to encourage her.
I smiled and said, “Even expert photographers need time and experience with their new cameras to take the best pictures.” Then I added, “I do have a really small and crowded mouth, so I think we should both feel pretty good about having a scan completed.”
A small giggle from both of us and the rest of the appointment went wonderfully.
This morning, I took the time to write her a thank you card. She really does a great job helping me to make sure my crowded, crooked smile stays healthy. I appreciate that very much because I do like to smile.
I really am already laughing about the experience. Normally pieces of plastic of that size have absurd warning labels stressing the importance of keeping it out of your mouth. The irony is I’d still rather have that scanning wand than a mouth filled with sticky stuff.
I also have a memory that makes me giggle. In the future I will have a great appreciation for the person who can design a smaller, more comfortable tool for scanning teeth. Just a hint to those super smart engineers out there for all of us small mouthed people.
Today I am hoping that the encounters I unexpectedly experience, the encounters God asks me to embrace, don’t cause gagging.
Have I pulled all of the roots of reluctance out of my heart in a day?
No, I really don’t think so. I know I still have a lot of work to do in the garden of my heart. I will likely not fully wrap my arms around every experience in this one day the way that I should.
Here’s the thing about pulling roots out. The average person who passes by the surface couldn’t see the roots when they were there. They will not recognize when the roots are gone, but I will.
When some new daisies have space to plant down their roots, I will be blessed to savor and embrace their beauty just a bit more because I knew what once was in that place. This embrace might be the courage I need to run of into those waves and let the reluctance crash upon the shore while I splash with glee.
“10 With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” 11 Scripture reassures us, ‘No one who trusts God like this – heart and soul – will ever regret it.'” Romans 10:10-11 (Message)
The Lord desires my whole trust. Trust without reluctance. Trust that no matter what the encounter, expected or not, God is bigger.
God’s love embraces me more fully than I could ever know in my limited abilities. He holds me with the same tenderness when I am walking at His pace or when I am throwing a temper tantrum because I do not want to go down the path. When I am reluctant or enthusiastic, His love embraces me completely.
Live it Out
Are there any themes or reoccurring messages that are rolling into your life like waves on the beach? Make note of any words or phrases that are repeatedly crossing your path.
Are there any roots in your heart that God may be asking you to work on clearing out this spring? Make some time in your calendar to get with God in prayer and in scripture to help you identify or pull those weeds.
Are there any encounters in your days that you need to open your arms to and embrace?
Where ever you are at, whatever you are going through, no matter what the circumstances you are facing God is embracing you with His love, goodness, and mercy.
You are a precious treasure! You are a beautiful gift! You can fully place your trust in the Lord, heart and soul, with no regrets.
Pray Through It
Thank you so much for embracing me with the fullness of Your love, especially when I am reluctant.
Lord, may the embrace of Your love help me to put my trust in You, heart and soul. May it encourage me to run into the water, even if there are risks with it. Help me to know in both head and heart that You are with me, even on the rare chance of rogue wave or tsunami. You will never leave me.
Help me to embrace the encounters I experience in my day as You call me to them and walk with me through them. May hope in You help me through all that hurts and rejoice in the many blessings large and small.
In the name of Jesus who embraces us fully, amen.