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Learning about trust in the dentist’s chair

If asked to name three scary movie scenes:

• A flock of birds sitting, waiting, staring — ready to attack: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”

• Frolicking in the water by the beach, a telltale fin appears, the cadence begins increasing in intensity; dum-dum, dum-dum: “Jaws.”

• You’re strapped in a dentist’s chair while the villain, stands over you with a drill and menacingly says, “Tell me everything.” You hear the whirring as you scream: “Marathon Man”

I relived all three movie scenes while sitting in a dentist’s chair preparing for surgery. The birds perched around the room, watching, waiting. The assistant began unrolling and laying out her tools. The cadence began; dum-dum, dum-dum. I was strapped in the chair, looking on helplessly as the dentist held the whirring drill over my mouth and said with a sneer: “Tell me everything.”

I screamed.

I’m kidding, but I did go to the local dentist for root canal surgery. He’s an excellent dentist but I couldn’t stop my overactive imagination. Every time he placed that drill near my mouth, I fought the urge to scream.

“OK, I’m a wimp.” My dentist took great pains (poor word choice) to do everything just right. But suppose he makes a mistake? After all, he’s only human. And the birds suddenly appear all around the room. Something could distract him. Dum-dum, dum-dum. The drill could slip. “Tell me everything.” Ouch.

The surgery went well with no complications, but for two long hours the future of my mouth was dependent upon someone else’s skills. I had no choice but to place my teeth and my trust in the hands of another. I hate to admit this, but trust does not come easily for me.

The dictionary defines trust as: “a confident reliance on the integrity, honesty or justice of another.” Trust for me was a confident reliance on the skills of my dentist. Trust for you may be:

– beginning a new relationship after a messy break-up.

– preparing yourself for needed surgery.

– allowing your children appropriate freedoms and responsibilities.

– giving God more control over your life.

Trust would best describe Jesus’ attitude while approaching the end of his earthly life and ministry. Shortly after a last meal with disciples and friends, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”

Jesus knew about the suffering to come yet in the end placed his confident reliance on the integrity, honesty and justice of God. There can be no greater trust.

Jesus’ prayer was answered, not by having the suffering removed but by receiving strength.

“An angel from heaven came down and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) It was enough. Even on the cross Jesus’ last sentence was from Psalm 31:5: “I entrust my spirit into your hand.”

In other words, I place my total trust and confident reliance in God.

Some other biblical examples of trust:

• “That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him.” (Hebrews 4:14)

• “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” (Hebrews 10:23)

• “For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory.” (1 John 5:4)

What about you? Are you learning to trust others? How much do you trust God? Learning to trust is a critical part of faith.

So, the next time I go to the dentist office, I may still relive a few horror movie scenes but I’ll do my best not to, “scream.”

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.