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Anxiety in the Dentist's Chair

I felt uncomfortable, constrained, and overly concerned. Was this anxiety?

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“One more. Ok—one last sticky, gummy, gluey, clinging, syrupy, jelly piece. Then, get back on the bus. It is time to go.” The conversation inside my head kept me moving. While traveling in another country, our large group stopped in a local candy shop to sample a smorgasbord of Turkish Delight before returning to our hotel and to our conference—a delightful ending to a delightful day. Or so it seemed.

Suddenly (without warning) the last sugary blob in my mouth felt anything but delightful. “Did I just bite down on the hull of a pistachio nut?” If only.

Within moments it became apparent that the unwanted souvenir I was chewing on was definitely not the hull of a pistachio nut; instead, what I held in my mouth was the gold crown off my tooth! Ouch. My sweet outing just turned sour.

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In a matter of days, when the conference ended, I returned home, and found myself facing “a delightful (?) procedure.” For the two-hour technique, the chair was tilted back with my feet higher than my head, bright lights beamed down, and strange medicinal odors hung in the air.

Actually, this arrangement felt familiar. But my mental thought process did not feel familiar. While my body was subjected to science, what would I do with my brain?

Generally, I am fine with dental work. Hey—my dentist deserves a five star review, and his assistant could put a rhino at ease. They even provide a blanket, a pillow, and a moist face towel! 

Nonetheless, an unfamiliar mental challenge descended and caught me totally by surprise. (Eventually I would listen to an audiobook, but at the moment my mind had a mind of its own.)

I felt uncomfortable, constrained, and overly concerned. Was this anxiety?

When anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul (Psalm 94:19 NASB). Whew. Thank you, Holy Spirit; I needed that. (Observation: anxious thoughts actually multiply. They do not stay singular. They are not alone or isolated or random. The Bible is right. They actually multiply.)

Then, onto my perplexing mental medical scene, a glorious idea broke forth.

The English alphabet has 26 letters. What if I take my mind through 26 different attributes of God while I wait alone the fifteen minutes for the numbing medication to take effect?

And so I silently began:

A Almighty: God, You are almighty.

B Beautiful: God, You are beautiful.

C Concerned: God, You are concerned about my tooth.

D Dear: God, You are so dear to love me the way You do.

E Ever-present: God, You are ever-present. I am not alone here in this dental chair.

F Faithful: God, You are faithful to always meet my need for help.

G Good: God, You are so good to have gotten me safely home with this problem.

And on and on...26 times for all 26 letters in the alphabet.

With each letter, with each attribute, with each characteristic, my beloved heavenly Father came more sharply into focus. Simultaneously, my mind calmed down and my body relaxed. Soon I felt ensconced in a cocoon of supernatural love. Cease striving (let go, relax) and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10 NASB).

Alphabet of Attributes

Since that day in the dentist’s chair, I have found this mental exercise helpful far beyond the original setting. The delightful Alphabet of Attributes idea is transferable into other situations like waking up in the middle of the night.

Thankfully, my tooth is repaired. But make no mistake about it, I will say, “No thank you,” the next time I am offered Turkish Delight. I will leave my portion for Edmund. 



Living with Eternal Intentionality: When did you recently feel mentally challenged? How did you navigate yourself out of the quagmire?