Last week I went in for my regularly scheduled water boarding session known as the dental checkup. I’ve written extensively about my loathing-love for the dentist before, so I won’t revisit the topic of spit vacuum repairmen or my wife’s behind-my-back calling of the dental receptionist on this post. But as you know, the dental chair is a great place to reflect on spiritual truths. Or watch your life flash before your squinted, pain-filled eyes. Whatever.

At my dentist’s office, I typically am paired up with a nice, calm hygienist. She initiates warm conversations. She doesn’t leave me sitting in the chair too long. And she’s gentle with my teeth. As you can imagine, I’m a big fan of Nice Calm Hygienist Lady.

But occasionally – as was the case last week – I am matched with Helga the Hygienist, who apparently had a huge fight with her husband before she left for work, and decided to take out her frustration on every man she encountered that day. And since I was Helga’s first victim, I received the full brunt of her wrath.

When Helga cleans your teeth, she spares nothing. She digs. She scrapes. She pokes. She prods. She presses down so hard I think my ancestor’s enamel gets clean through some weird time-space continuum thing. When Helga cleans your teeth, you know they’re clean. Yes, they’re probably bruised and bloody and you won’t be able to chew for a week, but by golly they’re clean.

While I was in the chair, it hit me that I view spiritual growth about the same way that I view a trip to the dentist’s office. I want Nice Calm Spiritual Growth…not Helga the Spiritual Growth Catalyst. I want scriptures that are warm and fuzzy. I want sermons that aren’t too terribly convicting. I want prayer times that focus more on God’s provision than my sin.

But I’ve noticed that real spiritual growth tends to look more like Helga’s dental chair. It’s painful sometimes. It makes your eyes tear up sometimes. It makes you want to skip a checkup sometimes. But in the end, you know that cleansing has taken place.

This week I’ve committed to digging a little deeper during my times with Jesus. I don’t want to just look at my actions, but the motivation behind the actions. I don’t want to just ask for what I want, but to ask God to highlight what I actually need. I want him to kick over a few rocks and help me to see the real me that’s underneath.

How about you? What Helgas are you avoiding?