One of a Kind
By Timothy W. Tron
It is magnificent to watch a flower bloom over several days, or something even more glorious, to experience pregnancy with your spouse and the eventual birth of a child. The former is quick, lasting only a few days, if that. The latter, taking months, became a once-in-a-lifetime event. Both are important in God’s creation, but unlike the physically obvious miracles of life, there is another miraculous event as important as the latter previously mentioned that often goes unseen, undetected.
This last week was another one for the memory books. Never before had I encountered such a spiritual, uplifting feeling when visiting one of the most unlikely of places – the dentist’s office. To understand the significance of the moment, a little context is needed. You see, sometimes, when you take that plunge, step off that cliff to serve God fully, you inadvertently leave something behind. In my case, there were many things, but one that grew more pertinent with time was the care of my teeth. It had been over eight years since I last visited a dentist’s office. I took care to brush at least twice daily and to floss (occasionally), but those annual appointments are necessary to keep the plaque from building up below your gum lines. After many years of neglect, I finally made that dreaded appointment last fall. As expected, the news wasn’t good. Due to extreme plaque build-up, two deep cleanings would be required. Herein begins the foundation for the story that God was about to reveal. As so many times before in my life, a blessing would come from the suffering.
During the initial visit, around September of last year, the first dance with the oral sledgehammer, the dental hygienist assigned to my case, was professional and polite. My heart went out to her because my neglect had made her job much more difficult. A few weeks later, in October, the second cleaning took place, and there seemed to be a slight change in her demeanor. Again, my heart went out to her, but there was more to her cordial, introductory conversation than the previous visit – something entirely unexpected considering the task at hand. Something about the questions about what I did on campus seemed to hint at a curiosity that wasn’t there before.
A few months later, around February, I had a follow-up appointment for the deep cleaning. This time, the same dental hygienist met me in the waiting room to usher me back. I still hadn’t memorized her name, but she looked familiar. We went back to the room, and this time, the conversation seemed to open up more about faith-related topics, but unlike before, there wasn’t a probing, but rather something confirming, something that said she was a believer – “But to what degree,” my mind pondered. A feeling of appreciation and thankfulness washed over me. As we planned a follow-up appointment, she seemed particularly concerned that I should return sooner than later. So, we made an appointment as soon as the insurance would allow.
A couple of days later, the suggestion for a friend’s request came up on my social media feed. It looked like the young lady who had been my hygienist a few days earlier. Still unsure of her name, I clicked on the profile, revealing that my suspicions were true, but not to the degree I imagined. No, it was much better. My heart leaped for joy. Her name was Sarah, and yes, she was a believer, but the good news didn’t stop there. She had recently given her life to Christ last year in November, one of her posts had proudly proclaimed. In addition, she was married to a veteran of the Afghan War. It was true. She had changed, and it wasn’t just my imagination. Suddenly, there were many questions and a longing to speak to someone whom I wouldn’t get to see for several months. Was it a coincidence that she asked if I wanted to return sooner than later? Besides the questions, I felt an urgent need to congratulate her on her decision to follow Christ and provide encouragement. But most importantly, I wanted to find out how she was doing since her choice. But my follow-up appointment wouldn’t be for quite a while – so I patiently waited.
The months passed. The memory faded.
The morning of my long-awaited follow-up appointment, we were greeted with the first chill of autumn in the air. Sitting outside on the porch of the Local Lion coffee shop, we found ourselves seeking longer sleeves and thicker second layers of clothing to adorn before our Bible study had adjourned. One could say the weather had a part to play, but something was moving, something stirring the spirit within that was palpable. Due to medical conditions, I’m now only allowed to drink decaffeinated coffee, so it wasn’t the coffee talking – it was the power of the Holy Spirit at work. Before reaching my office, instead of the morning polite hellos, I felt compelled to hug my colleagues, taking them by surprise, and in each case, a smile and something of a gracious response were met. The further my footsteps carried me to my little hole in the wall of the spacious campus, the greater a joy seemed to grow in my heart. But what could it be that was causing such a stir? The answer would soon be revealed.
We all have them now, those electronic calendars. More than once, thanks to the tools that allow you to be notified of upcoming meetings and appointments, I’ve nearly missed something important, but the calendar saved me. As the company of students and colleagues poured into my little office that morning, the memory of the appointment soon vanished. It was when the third notification popped up on my calendar that a feeling of panic washed over me. I looked at the time and realized that I had to leave immediately. Because I was so overwhelmed with the flurry of customers, I had missed the previous notifications. In other words, I was about to be late for something I had anticipated with great joy for several months. Odd, you say. Yes, it definitely would be the first time I would be looking forward, with joyful anticipation, to a trip to the dentist’s office.
As I was about to head out the door, I thought of what a new believer needed. In our walk, when we first come to Christ, it is almost as important what we do after the decision as the decision itself. Helping others in their walk of faith after making such a life-changing decision is crucial in getting them to see how to walk the path of their new life. With this in mind, I grabbed a couple of copies of the Blueridge Christian News and my book, ‘Bruecke to Heaven,’ to give her in case she needed something to aid her in her journey. Whether she wanted them or not, it would be a chance to take that had no downside other than the materials being discarded. But the upside was far more potentially rewarding – affirming her decision.
Pulling out of the campus parking lot, potentially arriving a couple of minutes late, the philharmonic orchestra’s music on the radio seemed to match the brilliant clear blue azure sky above. As I drove, I prayed that God would protect my drive and not let anything get in the way of this moment to spoil this opportunity to share with a new believer. From that point, every light turned green, and the traffic parted like the Red Sea. Miraculously arriving with over a minute to spare, the receptionist called my name as I entered the door, “Tim?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“The hygienist will be right with you.”
“Great,” was my reply as I reached for the pen on the counter. I wrote Sarah’s name inside the book, unsure whether she was even there or if the gift would be received with the best intentions. A couple of minutes later, the figure of the dental hygienist emerged from the back room, calling my name from beneath her medical mask, “Tim?”
Sarah stood waiting, a smile curling the edges of her eyes into small, happy wrinkles. “Thank God,” I breathed to myself.
“Come on back.” We unceremoniously made our way to her room, where she was all prepared. Before I sat down, my euphoria must have been almost comical. Eagerly, almost as a child sharing the story of catching the big fish in the pond, I began confessing my previous assumptions, how I had sensed the change, how there was something almost miraculous how her name had shown up on the social media, and then to find that we were nearly at her spiritual Birth date.
“Here are a couple of things for your early Birthday gift,” I said hesitantly, handing her the book and papers, explaining what they were and their intent to help her in her spiritual walk. Before I could finish, it was apparent the suspicion had been correct as she began to respond with a joyful thankfulness. From that point, the spiritual floodgates began to open. As I started to sit down in the reclined dental chair, the thought occurred to me, “Here underneath the lamps of iridescent lamps, in what, up to this point in my life, had always figured to be the necessary personal health torture chamber, where pains we seldom seek to find are inflicted upon us for our own good are received, was now about to become a bed of repose for a time of fellowship and testimony unlike any other. How much like God is that? To turn something bad into something awesome?” What followed would soon become the most jubilant hour of dental cleaning I had ever experienced.
Sarah began by describing how she first felt the changes after her decision. She said she realized things were different one day while working on a patient when she heard the lyrics of a song on the radio playing, which wouldn’t have bothered her before her salvation. But since that change, Sarah said she was convicted enough by the words she was hearing that she had to pause her work and change the channel – it was that moving. Sarah then went on to describe the things in life that once meant little now meant a lot more – the things that never bothered you before, but now they do kind of thing. It was a revelation that warmed my heart the more she spoke.
Then Sarah told me how she hadn’t been able to share her testimony and wondered what she was to do next. It wasn’t until there was a death in her extended family when her brother-in-law’s mother passed that she was afforded that opportunity. At the funeral, the preacher presented the gospel and path to salvation as part of the eulogy. She said she could see her brother-in-law struggling, warring with the flesh against the choice at hand. It was then, she said, that she heard a voice speaking to her to be bold. Sarah approached her sister’s husband and encouraged him to give it all to Christ. At that point, she shared her testimony with him. It was the first time she told anyone of her salvation. The joy it gave her was apparent. Even through the medical mask, her eyes told the story.
From there, Sarah then began to tell me of her conversion, the encounter with the Holy Spirit, again and again, and how, after arriving home one evening, she just sat in her car and wept, knowing that God was calling her. The following Sunday, at the church service, she gave her life to Christ.
We continued stopping, me responding, talking, then continuing, then pausing, then responding over and over, to the point it was almost comical, in the sense that this was unlike any dental cleaning – it was pure fellowship. Time seemed to fly, but with each new revelation, every additional revelation, my heart was overjoyed to know that God had put me there for a reason, if nothing else, to provide confirmation that God was listening, that God would put people in her life to be there to for her and to help her.
We spoke about her husband, Daniel, a former marine, having served several tours in Afghanistan. Inside, I knew that it was inevitable that the young man would definitely have some form of mental trauma from war. There was a great possibility that he would suffer from flashbacks that would overwhelm his being. She confirmed my fears when she said that Daniel had not yet come to Christ and that he avoided going to church. It was more than just an occurrence that the most recent article in one of the papers that I had given her covered just such a character. She asked that I pray for Danny, as she liked to call him, that she didn’t know how to reach him and was fearful that he was falling into a dark place. “Did you know him before he went to Afghanistan,” I asked.
“No, he had already been when we first met.”
Inside, I was somehow thankful, for that alone could easily, as it often does, drive a wedge in any relationship. Sarah confirmed my fears when she recalled how his family said he had changed. Sometimes, I’ve read and seen how war can change men. Marriages are often the casualties of such conflicts. Years after the wars have ended, the battles still rage within those men and women who were part of that death and destruction. She went on to share how her little three-year-old nephew would ask Danny to go to church with them. But each time he was asked, he declined. “I just pray that eventually he won’t be able to say no,” she said lovingly.
A little while later, after a short period of silence, Sarah paused again in her work and said softly, “Please keep Danny in your prayers,” Her voice said it all.
“I definitely will.” What she didn’t know was that he was already in my prayers.
There was an urgency to our time together that seemed to press upon me. How often do we come across someone who comes to know Christ, but due to outside circumstances, you know that you won’t see them again for a long time, if ever? Inside, you fear they may not have enough help in their walk – not enough love or support surrounding them. All these things and more kept pressing me to lovingly encourage her as much as the visit would allow.
Eventually, we went on to talk about many things of faith – things to look out for in the early stages of our walk in Christ, to look for those convictions and messages from God, and the feeling associated with sharing one’s testimony, all with scripture references. In all, as I helped her watch the clock so that we ended my appointment on time, it felt more like a fellowship party than a visit to the dentist. But after all, it was nearly Sarah’s spiritual Birthday, so why not? We ended in prayer, saying our goodbyes until the next time.
In this life’s journey, we will come across many Sarahs. Knowing life will keep us separated, careers, distances, and struggles, we must lift them up in prayer because, eventually, we have to leave. We must remind ourselves that they found Him without us; they surely will be able to continue to find Him when they need him most. As much as we would like, we can’t be there for everyone we run across on our missions. We eventually have to return from overseas, drive back home, or even more permanently, pass from this life to the next, long before we feel we were able to finish pouring into those beautiful souls whom we will leave behind, who don’t have a good shepherd to watch over them. Thankfully, Sarah has found a good shepherd – her preacher is a devout man of God – a true disciple maker. But not everyone finds a community led by a good shepherd. Many are left alone to struggle. Yet, we must pray that God be with them and know that with Him, all things are possible. Yes, we might leave a little piece of our hearts with them. But we can take comfort in knowing that with God watering that tiny seed of hope, we can pray that it blossoms someday into a beautiful, devout follower of Christ who will go on to make many more believers – after we’ve long gone on to be with our Father in eternity.
And for that, we can always say, “Thanks be to God.”
Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is currently the Systems Administrator for the Computer Science Department at App. State. Timothy is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the Light”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, revised as “Bridge to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He is currently acting as the Faculty/Staff Liaison for the Ratio Christi campus ministry at App. State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org You can visit his website at //www.timothywtron.com/ or see more of his writings HERE