The dentist’s chair was the last place I wanted to be. A piddling annoyance for many, the dentist represented far more trauma for me. Vivid pictures swirled in my mind of childhood cavity-fillings without anesthesia, and the more recent “time-I-almost-died-in-the-hospital”: a near-fatal bacterial infection had invaded my system after a broken tooth and a six-month cleaning.
Four years later, I was still terrified.
I cringed in the chair and tried, hard, to imagine Jesus near me. Anywhere near me. Even in the same building. In that moment, no amount of “with” seemed enough, and nothing convinced me – not Scripture, not worship songs, not frantic prayer, nor even hand-holding by a concerned dental technician.
Immanuel, God “with” us, just didn’t cut it, and I sputtered in exasperation. Exactly how “WITH” was “with?”
The drill whined, and I clenched my jaw, my fingers, and my toes. Eyes wide, my mind went into overdrive, forcing facts into the front of my brain.
“OK Jesus, where are you?” I forced a deep breath, and tried imagining somewhere Jesus might be. Not just a distant force, I reminded myself, but someONE right here in the room. Someone strong and protecting.
What if Jesus was really THERE, in the room, at the end of the long chair…
…wiggling my almost-numb toes.
What? The surprising image popped into my brain. He was wiggling my toes, loosening my tension, changing my view and jostling me out of my terror. I giggled silently as the picture gradually emerged and I realized how stiff I was. I flexed my hands, my fingers, my ankles. In my mental picture, Jesus smiled as I wiggled each limb, reassuring me that this was no dangerous visit. I would not die, the pain would not defeat me, and the fear could leave.
Somehow, I couldn’t be scared and grateful at the same time. (That much is objectively true: anxiety and fear both emanate from the same part of the brain, I’m told). I breathed, and stopped chomping vice-like on my physician’s hands.
Christmas was long-gone, but Immanuel was apparently still very much “with.” He didn’t come to leave us alone, but to stay amid our darkness, our fears and instabilities, our joys and blessings, and our anger and pain. He is huggingly close, holding our hands and our hearts and overcoming all manner of evil.
Immanuel, God WITH us. It’s not just for Christmas any more.