Last month I went to the dentist…for the first time in 6 years. That’s right. Six years. Before you judge, think of all the money I saved.
I still stand by my story that every time “they” (whoever “they” are) said that you’re supposed to go every 6 months I heard 6 years.
To say I was dreading the dentist was a massive understatement. I’ve never been scared of the dentist, but who in their right mind enjoys the dentist? Due to a prolonged affair my mouth had with my thumb in my early years I did have to endure 3 years of braces as a kid. But other than that, I have had impeccable luck at the dentist’s office. No cavities ever. But if the wind blows the wrong way one day, my wife needs a root canal.
So in the back of my mind I was still resting comfortably on my “No Cavities and Fine Since 1989” status as I strode confidently-ish into the lobby of a new (Remember, new just means not the one I went to 6 years ago) dentist at 7 AM. Long story short: I maintained my no cavity status! Barely.
But in the time it took to have my teeth cleaned, three other people’s were cleaned by the same person. You see, because it had been so long since I had been to the dentist, I had all this plaque built up in all the nooks and crannies of my mouth I never really saw. Sure, on the surface level, everything looked fine. But it took a long time to clean all the bad stuff that I had allowed to build up.
As I’m about to gargle and spit for the 793rd time, my dentist tells me, “You know, Steven, if you would come when you’re supposed to it wouldn’t hurt this much.” Then it hit me…the same is true for our faith.
You know the feeling: You’ve been away from Jesus for awhile. It doesn’t really matter how long it’s been…weeks, months, maybe even years – but you definitely know it’s been too long. But the longer you’ve gone without Jesus being a real presence in your life (changing the way you think, act, and view others) the harder it can be to come back. “What will the people at church think?” you ask yourself. “Surely, they’ll judge me,” you tell yourself and it becomes easier and easier to believe that lie over time.
Much like going to the dentist, the longer you’re away from the presence of God, the harder it gets to return. You build up spiritual plaque that gets in all the nooks and crannies of your life, and the hardest part is it’s so much worse than you realize. Because on the surface we can be so good at making sure everything still looks presentable.
Instead of going to the dentist and getting the hard but necessary work done on your teeth, you may go pick up some Crest White-Strips. Instead of returning to the presence of God and doing the hard and necessary work of repentance, you may go out and try to be a better person and do good deeds.
Neither of these examples provide a real solution. They can actually do much more harm than good, as we’re able to deceive ourselves into not addressing the real problem. We can so easily become…
“like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:27-28
But you know what’s different about going to the dentist? She guilts me into trying harder and doing better. And that’s her job! It’s her disappointment and mini-guilt trip that compel me into going back in 6 months instead of 6 years.
But not so with God. The Bible says it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). So when you return to the presence of God, when you return to church, when you return to your home group, you do so because of God’s kindness, not God’s condemnation.
Come back. Don’t wait any longer.
If you have time, watch this 11-minute video called God’s Chisel. It paints a great picture of what it means to truly grow in Jesus.