Monday

Cleaning Jesus' Teeth

I was heading back to work after lunch when it hit me—oh no. Mrs. Z is the first patient on my afternoon schedule. 

I’ve worked part time as a dental hygienist since I graduated from college, and for the most part, I enjoy my day job very much. I love interacting with my patients, many of whom have become dear friends. I like helping people take better care of their bodies, and I love my boss and coworkers. 

But every now and then a patient appears on my schedule that makes me wonder why I chose to be a dental hygienist. Such was the case this day. Mrs. Z. (not her real name) was first on my roster. 

Crippled by a chronic disease, Mrs. Z. is confined to a wheelchair in constant pain. As her healthcare professional, it’s challenging for me to care for her. Everything I do for her takes longer, is more physically involved and requires significantly more mental and psychological effort than when I care for the average patient. In addition to her physical challenges, Mrs. Z. is also demanding, suspicious, and sometimes downright unpleasant. 

Needless to say, I wasn’t eagerly anticipating her visit. In fact, I was muttering and grumbling all the way back to the office. 

 Until a quiet question interrupted my whining and complaining: 

“What if the first patient on your schedule was Jesus instead of Mrs. Z.? How would you feel then?”  

Wow, if Jesus was coming into my office, I thought, I’d be so excited. What an honor it would be to care for JESUS. I would love to serve him by cleaning his teeth. Like the woman who wiped his feet with her hair, I’d be so humbled to be able to do something for Someone who’s done so much for me. I think my heart would burst with joy. 

And that’s when that sneaky Holy Spirit sliced my heart in two with his two-edged sword. 

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Matthew 25:40). 

With those simple words, God gave me an entirely new perspective for caring for Mrs. Z. Instead of mentally gearing up to treat a sick, grumpy woman, I began to eagerly anticipate ministering to Jesus as he sat in my chair. 

Oh, my patient still looked like Mrs. Z. She still had Mrs. Z.’s physical limitations (and her sour disposition), but instead of fulfilling a professional obligation, I realized that caring for Mrs. Z. was an honor, a privilege, and a joy. Knowing Whom I was REALLY serving changed my attitude completely. 

What about you? Who is the Mrs. Z. in your life? Maybe it’s a demanding child, a handicapped spouse, or an aging parent. Maybe you’re not cleaning someone’s teeth, but instead you’re cleaning his house, changing her diapers, or answering his question for the fifth time in ten minutes. How might your attitude be different if you recognized Whom you were really serving? 

I confessed and repented of my shortsightedness that day. I suspect I'll have to do it over and over again in the days to come. Then I took a deep breath, put a smile on my face, and whispered a prayer, Lord, I’m doing this for you. Thank you for the privilege of serving you.  

It made all the difference in the world. 

 

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