November 22nd, 2016

round tuit

A little bit of me is missing

Well, the tooth is out and gone. Quick and painless. Still, it seems strange. My parents taught me to take care of my teeth. They invested so much in braces, and then I invested so much in regular dental visits, fillings, crowns, even the odd root canal. I've spent so much time in the dentist's chair getting teeth fixed, and this took a couple of minutes, tops, after the novocaine took effect.

To simply give up on a tooth comes hard. Oh, I could have gotten an implant. I can even afford it, though the price would be steep. Steeper than I want to pay, especially when there are other things I need the money for. But at my age, the cost:benefit ratio indicated that the smart move was just to yank the thing and be done with it. In the end, destruction is cheaper and easier than redemption.

Driving home, I thought about this. I thought about the benefits of war vs. the benefits of peace: war gives you full employment and full production, but at the cost of tremendous destruction and loss of life and limb. And I thought about relationships. How many people give up on marriages that might have been salvageable, but who declined to pay the cost in time and effort and aggravation necessary to make it work? Easier to just dump the person you can't figure out how to live with and move on.

And yet, even when a decision to end something you previously valued seems like the best alternative, it still leaves a hole behind, a permanent gap in your jaw/life. The idea that you can dump something -- or somebody -- and be better off, with no permanent effects, is folly. There's a cost to everything. Every good and bad thing in your life leaves a mark on your soul. And too many people live their lives as if they can keep starting over without penalty, while all the time leaving all kinds of ugly marks on their souls. And then, one day, they wake up and realize what they've lost. I once knew a guy who had a full set of dentures at age thirty, because he never took care of his teeth as a kid. Living with dentures for the rest of your life may be an acceptable cost when you're sixty -- but when you're thirty?

I see churches doing the same sort of thing. They neglect the important stuff. They carry on stupid feuds. They withhold from each other the joy of salvation. They put off the stuff they know needs to be done. And they think, at some future point X, when I'm ready, or so-and-so is gone, or the kids are grown, or whatever -- then, then, we'll really get things going. But time moves on, and though Christ is ever-faithful, sometimes you can't do what you were always going to get around to do. And there's no going back.

Sure, sometimes it makes more sense to pull the tooth than to try to fix it or replace it. But we go to that option too easily, too often. There are things worth fighting for, and worth fixing, no matter what the cost.