When my brother from another mother, Ted, senses I'm on the verge of loosing my composure, he often says, "Don't go dental, Colleen. Don't go dental."
"Going dental" is similar to "going postal" in that I become angry, but I don't resort to violence or murder like someone who "goes postal" often does. Our catchy phrase--"going dental"-- evolved when, two days before Christmas last year, Ted overheard my conversation with the receptionist at the dentist office I frequent. While I was eating some bacon, a temporary crown I had crumbled in my mouth and left me with a gaping hole and exposed, unprotected dental work. When I called my dentist's office to explain the situation and asked them to fit me in to fix the broken crown (thereby protecting the the thousands of dollars worth of dental work I'd had completed), the receptionist told me I was out of luck. While she was sorry I would spend the next few days fishing sugared cookie bits from uncovered root canals, I would have to wait until after Christmas to come in.
I didn't take her news very well and Ted overheard my response to the woman.
"Wow," Ted said when I hung up the phone.
"What?" I responded, trying to nonchalantly dodge the guilt I already felt for being rude to the receptionist.
"It's just....I've never seen someone have such a strong reaction so quickly before. I understand why you are upset and I understand the receptionist is wrong and you, Colleen, you are definitely right; But you were totally calm when you were stating your case and then when you heard her answer, well...you went dental on the her."
I started laughing because---guilty.
Colleen = immediate, strong reactions, especially in the face of grave injustice like dental emergencies no one cares about. Since then, whenever Ted, my sister, Sarah, or me say "someone is about to go dental" we know a fanny whopping is imminent.
Wouldn't you know another crown fell out of my mouth yesterday morning?
Last month, the dental hygienist accidentally glued an ill-fitting crown over my tooth that neither she nor the dentist could pull off. It was their mistake and the doctor was hoping the crown would eventually pop off and early yesterday morning, it did. It was only 6:30 am, so I decided to say my morning prayers and then call the office when it opened two hours later. I turned to my Bible and my eyes fell on the Transfiguration.
I love the miracle of the Transfiguration, the time when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain and reveals His divinity right before His Apostles eyes. I like to imagine I'm there
--looking out over the picturesque view when Jesus, shining bright like a diamond, is visited by Elijah and Moses. When Peter starts talking about how great it is everyone is present to observe this Grandiose Scene, I offer to help him build some tents so we can all stay there--fat and happy--up on the mountain for the rest of time.
And when I hear God, the Father's voice booming from the heavens, I picture throwing my entire body onto the ground and burying my face in fear just like the Apostles did. As God speaks, I keep my forehead pressed into the dirt, to afraid to search the skies for the face of God, and I listen as He says, "This is my beloved with whom I am well pleased."
So yesterday morning, as I read the story and prayed, I pictured myself at the Transfiguration. But then I started wondering...
Why did Jesus only ask Peter and James and John to go to the mountain? Why didn't He invite all the Apostles to see Him in His divine glory? What was so special about those guys and really, why was the Transfiguration necessary at all? The Apostles were firsthand witnesses to Jesus' miracles...why did he need to reveal himself in all His divine glory?
I was asking Jesus these questions when Christopher trampled down the stairs and professed his near death from hunger pangs. I closed my Bible and wandered into the kitchen, leaving the unanswered question of--Why those apostles, Lord? And why the Transfiguration at all, Lord?--with Jesus.
Later in the morning, when I called the dentist's office, the receptionist who fielded my call told me there was no one available to fix my dental emergency. I calmly explained my dissatisfaction with her response and when she wouldn't budge, I promised to find a new place to get my teeth cleaned. Although I didn't "go dental" on her, I communicated my intense level of unhappy and I communicated it strongly.
Then, I hung up the phone and burst into frustrated tears.
The receptionist called me back a few minutes later, apologized, andfit me into the schedule so my tooth could be fixed. John rearranged his afternoon so he could watch the kids and at 3:00 pm yesterday, I drove to the dentist's office.
On the way there, I had an epiphany about the Transfiguration.
Jesus brought Peter, James, and John to the mountain top because those three hardworking apostles needed to hang out with Jesus, and Elijah, and Moses in all their heavenly glory. The Apostles got to hear the voice of God the Father and they got a taste of what heaven is like and that experience was awesome.
Peter got all excited and wanted to build tents because he didn't want to leave Jesus and God the Father on the mountain ever. He didn't want to leave an experience of total peace and happiness and contentment and return to Real Life.
At the foot of the mountain, there were sick and needy and possessed people. There was hard work, and difficult Pharisees, and government officials who wanted to kill them because of their faith.
But on the mountain? There was God the Father and Jesus, the Son, and there was serenity and contentment and perfection.
Peter and James and John needed the Transfiguration to sustain them in their journey; they needed the fuel to help them keep going during their looming trials. And every morning I need to climb the mountain so I can encounter Jesus in my own experience of the Transfiguration. I need to experience Him so I can survive the trials I inevitably face when I climb back down the mountain. Just like Peter, James and John needed the Transfiguration to keep them going until they got to heaven, I need prayer to help keep me get going when I deal with cantankerous dental receptionists.
Prayer is a slice of heaven on Earth. Prayer is peace and serenity and contentment. Real life is filled with beauty and goodness, it's true, but it's also filled with dirty diapers and spilled milk and attitudinal children and spouses and hard jobs and sickness and death and inconveniences. Prayer is the Life Force that sustains us through all the tough stuff. In prayer, we are united with God in such a way we experience a peace which surpasses all understanding. We need prayer to survive, just like those Apostles needed the experience of Jesus in the Transfiguration to survive.
This morning, I didn't go dental on the receptionist, but my restraint came from outside of myself. It came from my experience with Jesus in prayer and that encounter filled me with the grace to deal with my own Real Life challenges.