I’ve had a love/hate relationship with dentists*. The family dentist was a lovely guy who didn’t believe in cleanings (no, really!) so it wasn’t until adulthood that I first experienced the joy of swishing. The next guy to view my molars made me almost give up on dental health altogether. He discovered my first cavity. I had a terrible experience with an injection to my gums that made me feel like I had been hooked up to a 220 volt line. There were no apologies, no acknowledgement of my tears, just impatience with my reaction.
We moved. I switched providers, and again I wasn’t happy. At the suggestion of a parishioner, I checked out one of the local folks… and fell in love. I loved him so much I’d travel from DC back to NJ for appointments. That’s about 7 hours of travel to spend 1 hour drooling in a chair. I loved him because he made me feel safe.
There’s a unique vulnerability from the perspective of the person in the chair. Being able to trust the person with pointy objects is critical.
Vulnerability isn’t our strong suit. We stigmatize illness (especially mental illness) and we plod forward despite various aches and pains. Societally, we prefer to show our vulnerabilities when the lights are low, and the screen is bright knowing that when the show is over we can pretend to be untouched. We will let those we trust see our woundedness, but for many that circle is very small indeed.
Over the next few months the Presbytery will be engaging in some deliberate explorations into some of systemic issues that have impacted our ability to be the church. Ruth Everhart (every church should have recently received a copy of her book) will be with us on January 25th, and the conversation will continue with Dee Cooper a few weeks later. Although these conversations are specific to the intersection of church and sexual misconduct… there’s something more here as well. We are being invited to be vulnerable so that we can identify the cavities and those places that may need root canals. We are able to do this hard work because we trust in God’s grace.
Brené Brown makes a connection between vulnerability and courage. I think that’s true, whether we’re talking the dentist’s chair or the church. Let us be brave and vulnerable, church. Open wide!
*I adore my current dentist (just ask our Moderator, Bill Newell!) and how he sings throughout any procedure. When he’s not singing he’s talking about the pro-bono work he’s doing in the north side of Syracuse on underserved kids. I’m a fan, can you tell?