November 1, 2015
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #407: Timely Cleaning
Picture this scenario with me: You’re in bed, fast asleep, in the midst of an awesome adventure dream where for some reason you need to drive an armored SUV through traffic, which turns into a boat navigating flooded streets of a suburban neighborhood somewhere in Georgia, you assume because of the magnolia trees and the smell of peaches in the air. Off in the distance, keys rattle, a door bursts open, and your name is called out. A uniformed officer has somehow made his way to your bedroom, and you instantly know something is wrong. He tells you no details, just that you need to quickly get dressed and go to the hospital.
“You should’ve known you were in a dream,” you tell yourself. “You have no clue what a magnolia tree looks like.” The officer in your house? That’s reality, and you’re on your way minutes later, with a quick glance at the alarm clock at the end of your bed.
It’s ten minutes past four, but you’re wide awake now. The sharp intake of frosty air hits the back of your throat like a knife, but it doesn’t cut past your heavy coat and warm wool beanie.
The hospital is a short jaunt away, a warm, busy place with people and bright lights spilling onto the sidewalk outside. Before making yourself comfortable in the sterile waiting area, your name is called by the front desk attendant, a woman who ran out of smiles and pleasantries years ago. A door opens rather Oz-like, and you are ushered in for who knows what reason and for who knows how long. Then, a long hallway with cheery voices, and you arrive at an open door to a dentist’s office, where a lady in sterile garb seats you in a plastic lounge chair and tilts you back into a handstand position.
“Wait a minute!” your whole being screams out. “You people woke me up at 4 a.m. to have my TEETH CLEANED?!?”
I shouldn’t have been surprised when this just happened to me. After all, I HAD requested the appointment … six months prior. I should have known that the institution would make it so convenient to keep my appointment. What I should NOT have known, evidently, was the exact date and time of that appointment.
Like a closely guarded secret, appointment times for any medical procedure are never revealed to us common folk. I’m sure there is some legitimate security concern that is addressed by this abundance-of-caution protocol, since it is impossible to tell anyone, friend or foe, to meet you at your medical appointment to settle debts or grievances.
I breathed a silent “thank you” to all the idiot inmates over the years who have helped staff see the need for more stringent safety and security protocols. Now the system of clandestine appointments is designed with my safety and security in mind rather than even a hint of my convenience, because God only knows what heinous deeds I’d plan to accomplish if somehow I discovered the exact date and time of my dental appointment. Like floss consistently the week prior or make certain my goatee is flawlessly sculptured the night before. I know, right? Such a security risk.
Thanks, inmates who have compromised any formerly lax systems of operation. I really do appreciate you. You have me reaching out to Edward Snowden in the hopes he’ll agree to hack into our top-secret Inmate Dental Information Operations Terminal (IDIOT) and upload my dental appointment times to some website. Any website. True, with no Internet access, I won’t be any wiser, but at least SOMEONE will know when they are planning to come for me.
I used to think similarly about the date and time of Christ’s return. Why the big secret? Why keep us all in the dark? Wouldn’t it be better if we knew exactly when He was coming back, so that we could be ready?
Uh, no, it wouldn’t be better. Let me explain: As a child, I would know just how long my mom would be on the phone, based on who the person was on the other end. I could time my behavior accordingly, getting back to my schoolwork or chores just prior to the end of the call. Some callers, good friends of ours, didn’t mind interruptions, so I couldn’t get away with any bad behavior when they were on the line. When I didn’t know who the caller was, I couldn’t accurately gauge the length of the call, so I kept doing my assigned tasks, faithfully awaiting my mom’s return, which was often like the Day of the Lord if you were caught in sin. Think fire and brimstone with a spanking, and then remove the fire and brimstone.
See, the Bible tells us that Christ’s faithful bride, the Church, will not only stay ready for His return, acting as if it could be at any moment, but also that those who are faithful should be able to discern when His return is imminent. Now more than ever before in recorded history, every indicator is screaming out the obvious fact that Jesus is coming back soon. This should lead us to a no-brainer decision to live holy lives, fruitful for the Kingdom, ready for His return.
If you went to bed each night knowing that one of these early mornings in the next few months could find you with a surprise dental visit, you’d probably stay brushed and flossed, right? How would you prepare to meet the King of Kings? Well, at least my teeth are clean.