It occurred to me this week how much my dentist reminds me of God. Before you accuse me of blasphemy, give me a chance to explain! My dentist is certainly a good and Godly man and I respect him greatly, but I am not equating him directly to the creator of the universe or looking to him for my salvation. A significant amount of time in a dental office this week, however, has given me some time to reflect on my gratitude for my dentist, but even more so for my God.
Let me be completely honest and tell you that while I like my dentist as a person (he really is a great guy) I am never very excited to go see him. You could say that I have a healthy fear of him. I am aware that a visit to see him can quickly become a very literal pain. It is no coincidence that people often describe their least favorite tasks by comparing them to a root canal! A decent day can quickly take a turn with one look at an x-ray or peak into my mouth where his expert eye can diagnose a problem and prescribe an unpleasant remedy.
My fear has some basis, of course, but it does not keep me from going back to see him every few months. Why? Because in spite of the fact that I know a visit might cause me some discomfort, twenty five years’ experience in his care has taught me that I can trust that he not only has the knowledge to diagnose my problems, but he also has the skill to resolve them. And although I may leave his office a little more sore and a bit poorer, ultimately I’m grateful for his knowledge and skill to fix a problem I could not fix on my own and to help prevent bigger problems in the future.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
I encourage you to try something. Type “fear of the Lord” into a Bible resource or concordance and see what you get. There are numerous references, especially in the books of wisdom, to the idea that a fear of God is good for us. That concept makes us squirm a bit. How can fear ever be good? And how could anything good (like wisdom!) come from it? Isn’t God a loving God, we think? How could a compassionate God every want us to fear?
It occurs to me that what makes my fear of the dentist a healthy fear is that it is ultimately rooted (pun not intended but appreciated) in my understanding that he has power, knowledge and abilities that I do not have. He can do for me what I am powerless to do for myself – diagnose and fix my dental problems. Yes, it might be uncomfortable. Yes, it will probably be expensive, but ultimately it will be for my good both now and in the future. To the best of my knowledge, my dentist has never caused me intentional pain. Every twinge and jolt have been purposeful and useful for righting a wrong and to prevent problems later. I fear him, but I also trust him – and that makes all the difference.
When I approach an all-powerful, all-knowing God, and allow him to diagnose every area of decay and brokenness in me, I’m aware that it’s going to hurt. So why would I subject myself to that? Why would I continue to come to him day after day knowing that in confession, I expose myself to discomfort and pain? Because I also know that not only is the Lord capable of diagnosing my needs and brokenness, but he is also ready and willing to provide the cure. My pain is never wasted! Rather, my loving God uses it to lead me to the cross where I find comfort, peace, and hope in Jesus.
This is where the wisdom comes in. A healthy fear of the Lord causes me to approach the throne of an all-powerful and loving God confessing my smallness and trusting in his greatness. This rhythm makes me wise not in the ways of the world, but in the ways of God: a God is who is simultaneously powerful enough to diagnose my need, loving enough to treat it, and patient enough to do it all again tomorrow. Ultimately it is that wisdom that keeps me running back to him time after time, fearing his power but secure in his love.