Don’t tell my dentist, but I am a complete fraud. I do not floss. Never have. Never will. It’s not that I don’t want to or don’t see the value in it. I just lack the discipline to make it happen more than three days in a row. At that point I get busy or distracted and the wheels completely fall off the bus.
However, despite this flagrant floss-free lifestyle, the day I go to the dentist I always floss. Always. Sometimes, when I see it pop up on my calendar, I may even swing it a day or two in advance. Why is this?
First of all, I don’t want anything exceptionally large, like a side of bacon, to fall out from my teeth during the cleaning. Dental hygienists frown at having to pick up slabs of meat from the floor. Second, I don’t want to get yelled out for not flossing. I have enough guilt over all of the other healthy stuff I’m not doing and don’t need to add more shame to my list. Finally, I’m embarrassed that I lack even the smallest modicum of discipline to develop a habit that will save me pain and money down the road.
So, the day I go to dentist, I perpetuate a charade and try and bluff my way through my exam. But here’s the thing, who do I think I’m fooling? It’s not like the hygienist doesn’t see a hundred mouths like mine every month. She knows who flosses and who doesn’t. The evidence of neglect gives me away every time.
The same thing is true in my spiritual life. When I neglect the daily care of my soul, it shows. When I’m prayerless, I stress out on people, especially my wife and kids. I’m abrupt. Easily annoyed. When I’m not reading the Bible, I tend to worry too much and see worse-case scenarios around every corner. When I’m not serving people, I grow self-centered and put too much stake in my own personal happiness.
Without these tiny acts of discipline, the gunk of selfishness tends to settle into those hard-to-reach areas of my heart, eventually leading to decay. Sure, I can put on a happy face, shoot up a careless prayer every once in awhile and crack open a Bible when I know other people are looking, but spiritual neglect gives me away every time.
I cannot fake friendship with God. I cannot fake maturity. I cannot fake character. I can only receive these things as gifts of grace given to me as I take the baby steps that lead to a healthy soul. And in the seasons of life when I don’t take these steps, there’s no point trying to fake it. Jesus already knows when I’m a mess. But when I’m honest with God, that’s when He finally has room to work, drilling out the bad stuff and filling up the holes that no one else can touch.
(Image: ‘Dentista – 062/366‘, http://www.flickr.com/photos/38208449@N00/6947235051, found on flickrcc.net)