About 3 weeks ago I was calmly sitting in my home airport waiting to board my flight. I was chewing gum and scrolling social media on my phone when all of the sudden I chewed on something hard. I pulled out my gum to find part of my tooth in my hand. Gross. I mean really. I have a superhuman high pain tolerance so I wasn’t overly bothered by the whole situation. I was more grossed out that I was holding part of my tooth. I text a friend who asked if I was in pain. My reply was, “I don’t think so, maybe. Could be. Not sure.”
The question got me thinking, “maybe you’re supposed to do something when part your tooth falls out”. So I got busy. I checked my calendar and realized I couldn’t miss my upcoming trip. I called the dentist and they were closed for the day. I took a tylenol, because it seemed like a logical thing to do. Then I decided to move on with my life.
Fast forward to a week later and I’m sitting in the dentist chair. Side note, I have an unhealthy, but completely warranted, fear of the dentist. I dread going in. I tend to avoid it as long as possible and psych myself out until I suddenly find myself sitting in the chair. On this particular day I was all sorts of distracted. I had company in town, I had work appointments on my calendar, and I was not seeing my regular dentist. Please read that as: recipe for disaster. When the dentist asked me what tooth it was I pointed it out. She and her assistant spent a ridiculous amount of time probing my tooth. They blew air on it, they poked it, the wiggled it, and finally the dentist announced, “yes you do have a tiny chip in your enamel.” Tiny chip? It had not looked tiny in my hand but because I’m prone to being dramatic and because I was trying to not think about the fact I was at the dentist I just smiled sheepishly and said, “wow, maybe I didn’t need to come in”. I was sent on my way with a sticker (they maybe patronize me because they know how much I hate going in there).
9 hours later, my friends. NINE hours later I realized I had pointed out the wrong tooth. Not just the wrong tooth, the wrong side, the wrong spot, the wrong everything.
You might be wondering why on earth I just wrote about my tooth. Here’s the deal, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve realized that dumb tooth is so indicative of my life as a leader at times. Something happens that doesn’t seem right or feel right and if I can’t easily fix it I tend to avoid it. I’d rather avoid than deal with something that seems scary or gross or hard or messy. I move on quickly and hope it will stop bothering me. It rarely does. Then when someone asks me if I’m ok I give the easy quick answer. I point to something minor instead of allowing myself to realize there is something bigger that needs to be addressed. And sometimes I use every excuse in the book to avoid what I don’t want to do.
I can think of way too many times when…..
-I didn’t listen to the nudging of the Holy Spirit
-I didn’t let that toxic volunteer go
-I didn’t hold that person accountable
-I didn’t boldly speak up
-I didn’t pray with the person I knew I was supposed to
-I didn’t answer that phone call
-I didn’t control my tongue
Anyone with me? Let’s admit it, wading into the things we’d rather avoid is never going to be fun or easy. It is, however, worth it. Last year at this time God clearly told me that in my avoidance of a particular situation I was being disobedient. It was a direct hit exactly where I needed it. I turned and faced the situation head on and it was tough and it was hard and it was good. A year later I can see God’s gracious hand throughout all of it.
I want my life to be marked with more “did” statements than “didn’t” statements. I want to be the kind of leader who avoids less and deals graciously with more. Want to join me?
Turns out the actual tooth I did break is really broken (no tiny chip here). I’ll have 3 hours in the dentist chair in a few weeks to spend time praying about the stirring God is putting in my heart to wade into the mess instead of avoiding it. They’ve also assured me they’ll have a fuzzy blanket for me, a good movie, and I have my eye on a bracelet in the kids’ prize box.