About a dozen years ago, I learned all about root canals. The tooth that served as my “baptism” into this process/procedure is now acting up again and awaiting the attention of a specialist. In June.
I remember that first root canal well. It was the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. I’d had enough of the relentless pain. Called my dentist, but she had taken the weekend off – from Thursday through Tuesday. Good for her. Bad for me. She did give me a reference, and this person was gracious enough to see me at 4 p.m. and finally sent me out of her office at 7 p.m.
A root canal is not a gentle procedure. It is invasive, loud, even violent. Makes you wonder if it’s worth keeping the tooth. All this for $1000 (12 years ago). The Novocain was worth it…
I had to go back for subsequent visits. Yes, more than one visit for the same tooth. The roots in this particular tooth form curves, making it harder to clean them out. Curves can be appealing to the eye, even stunning on an X-ray, but not when it comes to the inside of a tooth.
To save a tooth, it’s important to get to the root of the matter. Dead and infected tissue needs to be cleaned out, medicine put in place, and the tooth sealed up again. To settle for getting some or most of the infection out – but not all of it – is to assure the loss of the tooth.
Repentance must be like this. Invasive, even violent. The dark corners of our hearts are not for the faint of heart. Sin must be rooted out daily…and honestly.
Avoid “Excuse me!” repentance. “Excuse me, but I’m a third/fourth/fifth generation Lutheran, and I even attended Lutheran schools…I have my own Bible – don’t know it as well as I should, but so there!”
“Excuse me, God, but society says this is OK. Excuse me, God, there were extenuating circumstances. Excuse me, God, but what are you going to do about my transgressing your commandments anyway – strike me down with lightning? That’s so old school. So Middle Ages. Hasn’t happened yet. Excuse me, God, but I’m not as bad as other people. Excuse me, Lord, but this isn’t my fault. It’s my parents, it’s society, it’s the media. Excuse me, Lord, but it’s your fault. You made me this way. I’m only being me. If you don’t like it, change me.”
“Excuse me” repentance is no repentance at all. It’s an attempt to justify sin, to make excuses for it or minimize its seriousness even though God says, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:20) To you and me, people guilty of such shallow, empty, lip-service repentance, the Lord says what Paul told the Corinthians, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Get to the root of the matter. What does it mean to repent? Is saying we’re sorry enough? Is it enough to clean up your act, to put on a good outward show? No. Repentance is not expressed in a carefully orchestrated press conference complete with cue cards and scripted confession in front of a limited number of carefully screened attendees in order to control the message and manipulate the masses. No. Repentance involves a complete change of heart. It involves confessing sin and doing a complete 180 degree turn and walking according to God’s commands, not looking back, not wishing we could be back in the filth of sin.
True repentance only happens when the Holy Spirit is at work in us. Thank God for his sin-condemning Law and his good news of forgiveness through Christ’s suffering and death! Thank God for his daily, necessary work in leading me to repentance and strengthening my faith in Christ.
I’m grateful that root canals are not a daily process. Hopefully, my current ailment will find a swift and positive (though wallet-emptying!) resolution. When I need a spiritual cleansing, the Holy Spirit gets to the root of the matter – daily.
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand