Learn more about who we are by following our blog, written by our pastor, preacher, and chief evangelist. Engage in the everyday sacred as Abby writes about the deep and ordinary all at once.
I was recently scared into flossing by my dental hygienist.
I have been told that you should floss daily ever since my first appointment at the dentist office when I was four. I even remember the white robed woman at our elementary school, whose weekly appearance in our classroom meant it was time to swish with disgusting fluoride rinse. She too expounded on the benefits of flossing.
But who, may I ask, really enjoys flossing? I would rather read, or for that matter do the dishes, than floss. I hate wrapping the string around my fingers and trying to fit it between my back teeth that I can’t even see.
Yet just a few months ago I began to floss almost every night. Why? Because apparently, like my father, I have gum disease and am in danger of losing my teeth eventually. What a drag. Thankfully my rational side decided it’s better to floss for a minute (I will not do it for any longer) than end up with large gaps in my mouth where teeth once were.
For me, prayer is like flossing. I think most of us are scared into prayer. And I think even if we don’t want to admit it, most of us have heard again and again how good prayer is for our well being, but few of us really enjoy it. Prayer too often feels dutiful, just like wrapping floss around your fingers. Most of us don’t pray before we need to, just like we don’t floss before our dental hygienist confirms that yes, our teeth will fall out.
Few of us pray before our depression crushes us, before our relationship falls apart, before we hit rock bottom and are forced to seek help for our addiction. No, most of us find ourselves praying right when our teeth are falling out, when we are scared into it as we await test results, when we discover our bank account is empty, before the ambulance arrives, when it becomes clear our spirit has left, or after our last friend, child, sibling, (fill in the blank) has stopped calling.
Most of us turn to prayer as our last resource.
Yes, I am an ordained minister, but I am no saint, and at times prayer still feels like flossing. I would just rather curl up in bed with a good book than talk to God about how depleted I am or about how terrified I am that I will leave my children motherless because of some terrible disease. Books are so much more enjoyable than bearing my soul to God.
I don’t want my teeth to fall out. And I don’t want my emotional-spiritual tank to register empty. So I floss and I pray. I’m not ashamed to confess that more often than not I am scared into prayer by this terrifyingly fragile world. But I’m grateful to confess that God doesn’t seem to care that flossing and prayer are not my natural inclination.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.