Why God is a Dentist (5 Minute Read)
“This is more than a dentist's visit,” Erica, my dental hygienist said. “Derek, you needed this.”
When I met Erica ten minutes earlier, she asked my sincerely how I was doing.
“It’s important to both hold the pain and congratulate yourself on the way you’re handling it,”
I told her the truth. “My circumstances on a scale of one to ten are a two, but I’ve been handling them like an eight or nine.” She asked if “it averaged out to a five.” I told her I didn’t think so. “It’s important to both hold the pain and congratulate yourself on the way you’re handling it,” I said.
My old neighbor, Dina, came in. I grew up across the street from her. “Derek, did I hear you are engaged?” I explained that I was, until three months ago. I decided to come to Charleston from a wedding in Tennessee the day before. A friend called me and said he and his wife had received the ring to give back to me.
Dina didn’t miss a beat. She came back sixty seconds later with one of the girls she “thought I should meet” from the office.
Even though my circumstances were a two, by the time I left I felt like a ten. Here’s a few things I noticed from my dentist's visit:
1) Vulnerability softens people:.
When Erica asked me how my day was going, her body language made it clear she wanted to know. Her palms were open and she made eye contact with me. She waited for my answer.
As she cleaned my teeth I stared up into her brown eyes and hair and white face mask. She told me she understood my feelings. She shared pain from her own life to help me know I wasn’t alone.
Dr. Crossland came in, plopped in his chair, and contributed his own advice.
“You know, Derek, even guys like us aren’t ten out of tens.”
“We're nine and a halfs” I interjected.
“Yeah, I agree, Derek. We're even 9.75s. But the thing is whoever you marry will find that .01% that’s wrong.” He raised his index finger and thumb up to eye level with a millimeter between them. “Whatever that .01 is, they will stick it to you.”
2) Physical Space Matters:
At my dentist’s office each patient has a divider between them, but it’s open to the hall. You can hear Dr. Crossland no matter where he is in the office. And often times he’ll introduce you to the patient next door. Because there’s only a divider, it’s easy to poke your head around and say hello. Other employees pop in.
“[C.S. Lewis] asks, “What do people mean when they say, 'I am not afraid of God because I know He is good'? Have they never even been to a dentist?” They haven't seen the vulnerability, generosity, and downright fun, that happens at mine.”
By that time several other employees had done exactly that. They warned me not to take relationship advice from Dr. Crossland. “Yeah, Derek, you only want to take my dental advice.” He continued anyway, explaining what can happen if a wife and mother in law don’t get along. When we finally took a group picture everybody appeared to be on laughing gas.
3) Generosity counts:
“The exam is on me,” Dr. Crossland said.
Later that day I was telling my insurance broker about my dentist. “Wow,” he said, “that doesn’t sound like my dentist.” We reminisced about the old days. The days when doctors visited patients at home and patients could pay with eggs or a chicken.
On my way out I told Elizabeth that "I called Dr. Crossland an hour after deciding to come to Charleston. I could have gotten a cleaning in New York, but I’d rather travel 750 miles to see them." Erica told me that some days she drove an hour to work, “but this office is worth it.”
The reason why Erica and I are willing to put the miles in is because my dentist’s office is a community. The people and environment sacrifice to strengthen each other.
Most people don't like going to the dentist. This includes C.S. Lewis, who relates it to when God inflicts pain on us. He asks, “What do people mean when they say, 'I am not afraid of God because I know He is good'? Have they never even been to a dentist?” They haven't seen the vulnerability, generosity, and downright fun, that happens at mine.
Erica was right. This was more than a dentist’s visit. But that's not surprising from what’s far more than a dentist’s office.