Yesterday, I had the great honor of experiencing my first root canal procedure. For weeks, I researched the procedure online so I could better prepare myself for my special day.
This is all sarcasm, of course. I was not looking forward to the moment at all. I had actually heard many horror stories about root canals and I was very nervous about having one done. The only thing I could do was try to forget about the poor experiences I had heard from my friends and pray for a seamless procedure.
Imagine my fear yesterday when I sat in the dental specialist’s chair and he told me that my tooth was not an average case, but worse. I thought to myself, “Great! My root canal experience is about to make its way to the Hall of Fame, right next to the other dental horror stories.”
Moreover, the specialist was surprised when I told him that I had never experienced any pain near the tooth. He told me the infection in my tooth had been going on for over six months. The whole time, I had no clue! And since I never felt anything, there was no need for me to get that tooth checked out. That is, until I noticed an abscess on my gum about a month ago. (If I learned anything from my Immunology class last semester, it’s that inflammation and swelling signify the presence of infection. And infections are not a good thing. Chipotle could tell you more about that.) So although the abscess didn’t hurt me in any way, I figured it would be best to have it looked at by my dentist. Surely enough, my dentist told me I had an infected tooth and that I would need to visit a specialist for a good ol’ root canal.
It gets even better. Because I had never felt any pain throughout the past six months, the infection had a lot of time to spread beyond the tooth and into healthy tissue. And of course, it did just that. (Turns out that having a sweet tooth isn’t so sweet after all.)
But I learned something very important from my experience yesterday. While the specialist was explaining the procedure and my worse-than-average situation to me, he said these words:
“Joanna, this isn’t your fault because you didn’t know your tooth was infected; you didn’t feel any pain. ”
When he said those words, I smiled a little because I thought of myself as some type of cool champion who feels no pain even when its literally biting at her.
But then he said this, which completely threw me off guard and wiped that sly smile straight off my face:
“It would have been better if you felt the pain six or seven months ago because it would have never reached to this point.”
In other words, he wished I had experienced pain because then, I would have known about the situation earlier and I could have fixed it before it caused so much damage. Imagine a doctor telling you he wished you were in pain. The irony.
Those words yesterday caused me to reflect on my faith and to remember all the times I hid my pain from others so that I could seem like a “strong Christian.” And maybe you can relate. How many times have we kept our emotions bottled up just for the sake of seeming like we have it all together?
What if we took the words that my dental specialist said and applied them to the spiritual area of our lives? Think about it: during those times when we acted like we had it all together, what if it would have been better to feel the pain? There may be times when God whispers to us, “I wish you would let yourself express that pain you’re trying so hard to hide from the world. My dear child, it’s okay to feel pain. There are people experiencing the same thing you are going through right now and they could really use someone like you to talk to. Your transparency could be a blessing to them.” What if us hiding our pain at such critical times in our lives might be the reason we have yet to experience deliverance? We don’t need to act like invincible champions when pain is knocking at our door, because the role of invincible champion is already taken by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And even He was vulnerable. He cried, he bled, he wasn’t afraid to let out his emotions. If God did it, then why can’t we?
1st Peter 5 asks us to be “steadfast in faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” You are not alone in your suffering. And allowing yourself to show the pain that you’re feeling solidifies the fact that we’re all going through something. Try being open for once and watch as people you would have never guessed approach you and open up about their similar experiences. We can heal and learn from one another.
So please, don’t feel any pressure to cover up and put on a fake smile.