God gave me a trip to the dentist. Maybe that’s not what you would pray for, but I needed to go. And I didn’t have insurance to cover it, so when I found out that my former employer had underpaid on my 401K and was issuing a check to make up for it, I hoped it would be enough for a visit.
Surprise! It was! Such a huge blessing. And it arrived exactly when I needed it, and it was just the amount I needed for the exam. God is good, ain’t He?
But this post isn’t about going to the dentist. Well, it sort of is. Mainly because I had a random thought while the cute little dental assistant was scraping the plaque off my teeth. You can’t cover up whether you’ve been brushing your teeth or not.
When we were little, my brother and I were always very careful to brush our teeth, but my mom always insisted that we brush our teeth thoroughly before we went to the dentist. Somewhere in my strange little child brain, I thought that brushing my teeth before I saw my dentist would erase any of the times I had forgotten to do it.
I didn’t quite understand it, though, because if I could brush my teeth once and cover up the fact that I hadn’t been brushing regularly, what was the point of brushing regularly? That being said, I was an obedient child. So I brushed my teeth.
I’m ashamed how long it took me to figure it out. I think I was in college by the time I realized brushing your teeth before you went to the dentist was less a cover-up and more a courtesy. Brushing your teeth once doesn’t undo six months of not brushing at all. That’s impossible. But what it does is get the top layer of food and such out of your teeth to help your dentist out with the cleaning.
It won’t do anything to take care of the mess under the surface.
And as I lay under the scraper, listening to the dental assistant scratch off the layers of plaque (in spite of brushing nightly!), I thought about sin.
My brain is weird. But hang with me.
Because how many of us treat sin the same way we treat brushing our teeth?
We cheat. We lie. We steal. Whatever we do, we know God said not to do it, and we do it anyway. That’s sin, and we all do it. Repeatedly. (Romans 3:23)
That’s where talking to God comes in. Confessing our sins. Telling God what we’ve done, telling Him that we’re sorry (and actually being sorry about it), and asking for His help so that we don’t do it again. (1 John 1:9) Sometimes you get an accountability partner to hold you to the mark, someone who will check up on you and make sure that you haven’t slipped back into doing what God says is wrong.
That’s like brushing your teeth daily. That’s a habit, a routine, of following Jesus, of doing what He says, and trusting Him to bless you for it. It’s a lifestyle.
If you let all those things pile up without confessing them, though, you’ll be a mess inside. If you hold on to all those sins, all those choices you’ve made that go against what God says is right, your heart will be hard and cold and dark. (Matthew 23:28) And maybe you can clean yourself up on the outside. Maybe you can put on the nicely pressed clothes of a Churchgoer. Maybe you can pass as devout and dedicated. And on the surface you can look for all the world like the greatest Christian in history, but underneath you’re rotten to the core because sin has taken root in your life.
You can’t erase your sin. You can’t just brush it away, sweep it under the rug, ignore it like it doesn’t matter. It always comes back to haunt you. And you can try to cover it up as much as you like, but eventually the truth will come out. (Numbers 32:23)
The main difference here is that cavities can’t be forgiven. But your sins can.
If you’ve screwed up your teeth, they’re screwed up for good. Worst case scenario, you’ll lose them all and have them replaced.
If you’ve screwed up your heart, ask God for a new one. God’s the only one who can wash away sins, but you have to bring them to Him first. No matter what they are. No matter who you hurt. No matter how long it’s been. He’s listening. He knows anyway. And He’s waiting for you to come to Him. (Romans 10:9)
So stop trying to cover up what you’ve done wrong. Tell God about it. It’s not like He isn’t already aware. He’s just waiting for you to come clean, so He can make you clean inside.