Do You Know How to Handle This Emergency? 4 Steps to Take

In the dental office where I work, it is not unusual to encounter an emergency.

It usually appears on our radar as a frantic call as soon as the office opens.

"This is an emergency, and I must see the doctor immediately!" the breathless caller insists.

Trying to calm the patient while determining the nature of the call, I ask a few diagnostic questions.

"Slow down, Mrs. Jones, and tell me about the problem. Do you have any swelling or bleeding?"

"No, but I can't stand it any longer. It started last night, and I've done everything I can do, and nothing helps!"

"Is it the tooth we were concerned about last month?"

"NO, that one is fine, but this one is killing me!!!"

"Are you running a fever or showing any other signs of infection?"

"No, but I was so desperate this morning I asked my husband to try to get it out, and he just made it worse!"

Envisioning the scene from Castaway with Tom Hanks on a deserted island with a toothache and a rock, I became even more concerned.  My patient's panic started to become my own.

"Mrs. Jones, are you able to drive yourself here? Do you feel lightheaded or faint?"

"As a matter of fact," she said, "I'm sitting in your parking lot now. I've been heading your way ever since I called you."

Meeting her at the door with her chart in one hand and a vial of anesthetic in the other, I ushered her into a treatment room and took a look at the problem.

I recognized it immediately.

It was a classic floss emergency.

A floss emergency happens when a diligent patient gets a piece of floss stuck between her teeth. In an effort to remove it, the patient usually tugs the wrong way, causing the floss to break off. Once the floss is broken, there is nothing to grab onto. Unable to pull the floss out, the patient usually attempts to remove it with tweezers. This only serves to fray the edges, making the length even shorter. Occasionally a patient will try to remove the stuck piece by flossing the same area with a new piece of floss. Inevitably, that piece breaks off as well, becoming wedged in the space with the first piece.

What makes this so distressing is that the floss, stuck in a space it wasn't meant to be, puts pressure on the teeth, causing a surprising level of discomfort. Due to the patient's heroic efforts to remove the floss, significant gum trauma usually occurs, adding to the patient's misery. Some patients even experience feelings of claustrophobia when they can't remove the floss from between their teeth.

The cure is simple -- we remove the floss with our highly specialized tools and enhanced ability to reach the difficult area. The patient experiences immediate relief. Mrs. Jones was so grateful she called me her favorite dental hygienist and sent me cookies every Christmas thereafter.

By now you are probably wondering why I went into this elaborate description of a floss emergency.

You may never experience a floss emergency, but you will, if you are a Christian, experience something very similar.

Instead of floss being the culprit, sin will be. Like that piece of floss that went rogue and wedged itself somewhere it wasn't meant to remain, sin slides into our lives masquerading as something good, only to cause distress and destruction when allowed to remain. It upsets the balance, impairs our ability to function, and leaves pain and misery in its wake.

When sins like lust, dishonesty, jealousy, gossip, bitterness, anger, greed, ungratefulness, apathy, and selfishness wedge themselves in our lives, we are hindered from living a full and effective life.

What is the answer for the sin emergency?

First, identify the problem. I couldn't help my patient until I realized what was out of place in her mouth. When we're squeezed by sin, we must identify it instead of soft-pedaling it as "just my personality" or "my one vice."

Second, ask for help. My patient tried to deal with her crisis in several different ways and failed. It was time to call in the reinforcements. In our battle with sin, we sometimes need others to hold us accountable, pray for us, and support us. Talking to a trusted friend, minister, or counselor can be a tremendous help. Often the very act of bringing our sin into the light diffuses its power over us.

Third, determine to do whatever it takes to become free from our sin. If we are attracted to another man or woman at work, we may need to seek another job. If we're struggling with drinking, we may need to find new friends and new places to hang out. If we're struggling with lust or pornography, we may need to give away our computer, throw away our books, or suspend our cable TV. We must do whatever it takes to make no provision for the flesh.

Finally, we must battle our sin in the power and name of Jesus Christ, not ourselves. Because of our faith in the resurrected Christ, God has given us power to live holy and victorious lives. Our struggles come not because we don't have the power to live godly lives, but because we choose not to use the power that is available to us.

"Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:12-14)

What steps do you need to take to ensure that you win the battle against sin? Will you start today?

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  1. Lori, this is a great post. I'm involved in an online Bible study and we were discussing sin just last week. I basically give the same steps for dealing with sin. We think alike. I really enjoyed this, especially the floss story. I can just see that happening to me!

    1. Mari,
      Funny how the Holy Spirit does that. . . and it seems that when He is teaching us something, it shows up EVERYWHERE! I am glad that He's willing to repeat important lessons, because I sure am guilty of missing them the first (second, third) time around. Ah, the patience of God!!

  2. That has to be the most interesting analogy about sin I've ever heard! Good, true words and a great reminder. Thanks!

    1. Your comment made me smile. Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. What a great analogy!

  4. "Sin masquerading as something good..." Now that's an analogy that'll stick in my brain!

  5. I love this. Analogies are the very best way to get a point across!

  6. Wow, what a great way to illustrate the effect sin has in our lives! Great analogy. Thank you for linking up with us at the COURTSHIP CONNECTION.

  7. This is a wonderful post. It gave me a glimpse into your life as I didn't realize you were a dental hygienist while being a wonderful example of sin in our life. For those of us who have walked with the Lord a long time, it is good to ask God to search our hearts for sin we are blinded to.

    Thanks for linking up at WholeHearted Home. Your posts are always so good and I really appreciate the time it takes you to linkup. Blogging takes time :-)

  8. Such a great post! Thank you so much for sharing and linking up at Simply Helping Him! Blessings!

  9. Like most others, luv your analogies, Lori.
    Sin can creep into our lives so silently at first.
    Satan likes to work in disguise.

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