About a month ago, I began treatments for an ear infection. After a couple of weeks, I noticed a dull ache in my face near my jaw line. I have had bad sinus infections in the past that caused pain in my teeth and in my face, so I assumed my ear infection had not healed since the pain was running back towards the same ear. The dull ache became an overwhelming throb that would not relent. For two days I felt awful, still assuming the pain was related to my ear. I once again treated the symptoms and eventually the pain subsided. A week later, I was using a toothpick to get a piece of food out of my tooth, when a flake of my tooth broke off, revealing a good size hole. The pain from the previous weekend finally made sense. I called my dentist, went in the next day and discovered that my tooth had abscessed.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, a periapical tooth abscess usually occurs due to untreated dental issues, such as cavities. “Bacteria enter through either a dental cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth and spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root.” I had no idea my tooth was having issues. I brush daily. I keep an eye on the foods I put in my mouth. I feel like I am in tune with my teeth. So, to discover that I have had a cavity deep inside my tooth long enough for it to abscess took me by complete surprise.
Last week, I had a root canal to heal the infection that was in my tooth and jaw. The dentist had to drill all the way into the deep roots in order to make sure the abscess was gone. This morning as I was thinking about the process, it dawned on me that just like I had no idea that my tooth had any issues until I felt the symptoms, often I don’t recognize that my heart has issues until I see the outward signs. Deep, overwhelming emotions sneak in through cavities, chip, or cracks in my heart. Often anger will explode out of nowhere or doubt will flood into my heart. Bitterness seeps out or fear overshadows my thoughts. Loneliness invades or sadness overwhelms. Instead of writing these feelings off, I need to slow down enough to recognize that these are all symptoms of an abscess deep in my heart. Something is broken. Something is hurting. Something is causing an infection and if I don’t seek treatment soon, the hidden bacteria will grow deeper until it is down in my roots.
The same symptoms listed on Mayo Clinic’s page are similar to the ones we need to recognize in our own hearts: severe persistent throbbing; sensitivity to temperature; sensitivity to pressure; swelling; tenderness; sudden rush of a foul smell or taste; and difficulty breathing. When our heart gets abscessed, we aren’t okay. Words and circumstances hit us wrong. Anxiety overwhelms. Pressures of life become exhausting. And often our words and actions become overshadowed with a foul odor of bitterness and brokenness.
Let’s check our hearts this week. Maybe we have an abscess that we didn’t know existed. We need to get a handle on things before the infection gets deep into the roots of our soul, contaminating us in a way that requires a root canal of the heart. Let’s take our symptoms to the Lord or a trusted friend and get the salve that will heal the brokenness before the throbbing become so blinding that we cannot see our way to navigate through our daily lives.