August 24, 2021
The cliché phrase that is our life’s goal: pearly whites for all our patients. But are pearly whites enough?
Working at a mission hospital in rural Africa, I try to do as much as possible before taking an x-ray. Much of my examination is done just visually, until I can convince a patient an x-ray really is necessary. With this style of examination comes a bit of guess work, and sometimes, it is the “tooth that looks normal” that is actually the problem!
Whenever I have a chance, I use these teeth as teaching opportunities for my patients. “You see this tooth of yours that is perfectly white and shining? Let’s take an x-ray and see what’s inside.” Quite often, the patient is shocked to see a big black hole taking up most of the inside of their “normal tooth.” Then I explain the causes of tooth decay and what they can do differently to prevent this from happening again. I also explain what we can do in the dental clinic to treat this problem and alleviate their pain.
Situations like this give me an opportunity to make the spiritual connection as well: our lives can be just like these mystery teeth. We can be clean and shining on the outside, but we need to examine our lives to see what is on the inside. How often are our lives just a shell of beautiful enamel with decay eating up the inside? And until we actually feel the painful symptoms, we may not even realize this truth.
How can we know what is inside? A spiritual x-ray, of course! 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith…” (KJV). Self-examination done against the perfect standard of the Word of God can reveal to us what our lives truly are. “.…the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, KJV).
The Bible is an x-ray without need for edge sharpening or increased contrast. The better we know it, the better we can know ourselves. As we follow the instructions within it, we can prevent future spiritual decay in our lives, and He can restore the parts that have already sustained damage. This has been a great opportunity for me to talk with my patients about their spiritual condition, and as you continue to care for your patients’ pearly whites, I hope it will present such opportunities for you as well.