“You have four small cavities in this one molar,” my dental hygienist stated matter-of-factly as if it were a routine diagnosis for me.
What? How can that be? My emphatic protest was internal, because, of course, I couldn’t say it out loud with the hygienist’s hands in my mouth!
I take such good care of my teeth. I floss every morning, I brush twice a day, and I visit my dentist every six months. I haven't had one cavity in over 15 years and now I have FOUR in ONE molar? I didn’t even know that was a possibility. (More inward protesting)
After the initial shock of this examination, I scrutinized my oral hygiene practices. It didn't take long to realize where I'd gone wrong. I'd paid extra attention to the parts of my teeth others could see - the fronts - and had neglected the more hidden, deeper regions.
My dental practices can translate to my spiritual practices as well.
You see, I can ensure my Christian witness looks cleaned up and sparkly white on the outside while ignoring deep rooted ugliness on the inside.
Reminds me of something Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees about in Matthew 23:27:
For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. (NASB)
As we all know, nothing can be ignored for long. If I had ignored the four cavities in my molar, eventually the rot would have spread and affected more than my one tooth. This is the same with our Christian walk. If we don’t allow Jesus full access to our hearts - even the dark, hidden places - eventually the rot will be exposed from the inside out.
There was a time when this truth became utterly apparent to me.
All my life I'd done my best to be the “nice” girl. People-pleasing my top priority, I was all about how I looked on the surface. I thought I did a pretty good job of this - saying the “nice” thing and doing the “nice” thing in front of people while negative emotions boiled just below the surface. I was blind to how often it actually bubbled out of me and spewed onto those I cared for most.
Jesus removed the blinders in my late twenties after nearly a decade of being in relationship with Him. I heard the ugly words and the ugly tone I'd long been deaf to. My awareness turned to my heart and how foul it was. Not in a shameful way. A grace-filled, honest, real, and authentic way.
Proverbs 4:23 instructs us, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)
My thoughts, my words, my actions were flowing from the condition of my heart - a heart that had been ignored, not guarded. And now that Jesus had revealed the condition of my heart, just as the hygienist had revealed the truth of my cavities, I had to decide whether I was going to take care of it or continue to neglect it.
Choosing to address my tooth was simple. We had dental insurance to cover it, tooth pain is my least favorite type of pain, and I didn’t want it to get any worse.
My heart, however, is a different story.
It’s not that I willingly want to neglect my heart, it just seems easier to ignore. The consequences of my oversight aren’t as “in my face,” so to speak.
Why do I schedule regular check-ups to ensure my teeth are in good shape, but I don’t do the same for my heart?
Today I say, “My heart is much more important than my teeth!”
Are you with me?
If so, here is a routine heart examination prayer for us - and rather than wait every six months, let’s make it a daily habit:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24 (NIV)