Where seldom is heard… an encouraging word

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The dentist office has historically been a very unlikely place for me to receive words of encouragement. My oral cavity has been the location of a lot of drilling and bridgework and excavation…. seriously there should be tiny little orange cones in my mouth most any day of the week. Always a work zone of some sort.

After using your basic old manual toothbrush for decades, I was instructed to be more aggressive with using dental floss. Done. But that wasn’t adequate enough for my stubborn awful plaque-plagued teeth. I was then advised to go from the standard manual toothbrush to a high dollar fancy rechargeable gadget. Done. And I use it religiously. My next visit? An hour long cleaning event. I think she even used a jackhammer. After a few such cleaning visits over the years I was advised to add a WaterPik water flosser gadget. Handy rechargeable feature with a travel bag and accessories included. Done. And seriously, I love the thing.

My daily dental hygiene routine had grown to occupy several minutes of my precious waking hours. But I was diligent. Almost OCD diligent. I was determined to get a better report at my next appointment. Determined.

So a few months ago, my regular cleaning visit came around again. The hygienist looked in my mouth, stunned, and asked “Have you been using your water flosser?” Oh boy, I braced my tender little heart for yet another lecture, another addition of some sort of dental gadgetry to my vast collection. And I started mentally trying to determine if we’d need to add on to our master bath to accommodate one more thing. But, no!!! The hygienist said “There has been a dramatic, drastic improvement in the condition of your teeth!! Good job!!” She spent maybe ten minutes with me and quickly sent me on my way.

And I was practically skipping with excitement and encouragement. It felt like an A+ on my report card.

I walked back to the lobby after my appointment to discover that all the lights were off, no one at the reception desk, and in fact the dentist and hygienist left the building right as I headed for the exit door. I was the last patient of the day and I had waited to be called back for about one hour past appointment time. So…. I had to kind of wonder if my teeth were really that amazing or if the dental staff was just running late and in a hurry to get out the door.

You know what, I opted to let myself be encouraged. Even if it was bogus encouragement. I was in need of a good word. I let my heart be happy as I drove away, looking in the rear view mirror to check out my “dramatically drastically” improved teeth. Hmmmm.

How desperate for encouragement must one be when a stellar dental appointment and kudos (possibly bogus) from a hygienist are the most positive words you’ve heard from anyone’s mouth for a long time?

Is it just me, or do you feel like there is an epidemic of disgruntled going around?

So much discouragement, so much snarky talk and back-biting and gossip and blatant hate…. it spreads like wildfire. Toxic negativity. Poison.

And the saddest truth in all this nastiness? The family of Christ believers, the church, the ones who have the most reason to be encouraging? We’re often the worst. To each other!!! As well as anyone in our paths.

Clean teeth are nice. But the ugly words that come from our hearts, pass over our tongues, between those clean teeth, leaving our mouths to hit the ears of those around us can have the power to utterly destroy hearts and spirits. And if the next words that make that same passage happen to mention Jesus and His love, hope, salvation? They’re going to sound pretty hollow to the ears that hear them. Bogus.

People…..this shouldn’t be. Check your heart. Stop the vitriol. You’re breaking your Father’s heart. Please stop. We need each other and there’s a hurting world out there who needs our encouragement and the genuinely good news of Jesus and his power to redeem.

We’ll be saying Merry Christmas often over the next few weeks. We will proclaim the birth of Christ, we will want the real meaning of Christmas to be known. Can we make sure our hearts match our message? Can we give the gift of genuine, heartfelt encouragement? What a wonderful gift to give. And in giving, you may will find yourself encouraged as well.

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Full disclosure, I need this reminder more than anyone. Father God, I ask you to fill my heart with your holiness and goodness. I want my words to encourage. It breaks my heart to think that words from my mouth could turn anyone away from You.

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