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Disheveled Theologian: Another comforter

They say that anticipation is half the fun. I’m thinking that it might also be half the torture. Not that I’ve been tortured recently, but I did have a root canal yesterday (Wednesday). And truth be told, my anticipation of the event was far worse than the actual event.

I have pretty good teeth. Thankfully. Yes, I do have one bridge, the end result of a gigantic cavity that woke me up one Sunday morning when I was in seminary and which kept me from my internship that day and had to be pulled bright and early that Monday morning. For three years I had a big blank spot at the back of my mouth until I got married and we had dental insurance. That bridge is going on 20 years now, thanks to the skills of Dr. McNiece.

On Sunday night of this week, when my tooth started to hurt, all I could think of was that Sunday morning pain from more than two decades ago. This particular tooth had been giving me trouble for a while. A cavity was filled in it two years ago and it just never seemed quite right after that. It was a deep cavity, in the farthest back molar (tooth #15, apparently) and a few weeks ago it started bothering me even more than usual. When it suddenly began hurting like the dickens on Sunday night, I knew that I needed to do something about it.

Now here’s the first fun part of the story. I walked into my dentist’s office on Monday afternoon. I wasn’t coming to complain or set up an appointment – I already had made one for the next morning – no, I was coming to pick up some toothpaste. But when one of the friendly dental hygienists asked me how I was doing, I answered honestly, “I’m dying because of this tooth.”

Then I backtracked and said, “No, I’m not really dying. You guys are going to look at it in the morning; I’ll be OK.” Then Martha — sure, I’ll go ahead and name her, I love Martha! — said, “That’s not normal for you.” She then stepped away, only to come back a few seconds later. “We’re getting you in right now,” she informed me. I didn’t refuse.

I love small towns where your dental hygienist knows you and cares about you!

The upshot of that consultation was a referral to a specialist in Sioux Falls, where I spent two hours yesterday looking like Odo from Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine (now there’s a character I hadn’t thought about in years), as I sported a laytex dental dam and endured the age-old torture of not being able to talk when your dentist says things that you’d really like to be able to comment on.

Now here’s the best part of the story. Even better than the care I received and the pain-relief of the procedure. The night after the procedure, I was heading to bed early. Lucy, age 11, saw that I was feeling kinda rough. I gave her a hug and kiss and headed for my room. But then she stopped me.

“Wait here, Mom. I know just what you need.”

I waited only a few seconds while she ran to her room and emerged, carrying the one thing in her world, which she knew has the power to bring comfort and relieve pain in any situation.

She walked up to me and handed me Blue. Blue is Lucy’s baby blanket. It is falling apart, faded, and loved beyond repair. You may even remember Blue as the heroine of at least one long-ago Disheveled Theologian column.

Lucy smiled, gave me a hug, and ran downstairs to play a game. She knew I was in good hands with Blue.

While I admit that Blue cannot be equated with the Holy Spirit in any true, theological way, I am willing to go out on a limb here today and say that Blue is a knitted and Disheveled — in every sense of the word — theological approximation thereof.

Between the comfort of the Holy Spirit and of Blue, I slept well and am on the mend. Thanks be to God.

“If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth.” John 14:15,16,17a TLB

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is