Psychologist James Dobson, the founder of the Focus on the Family ministry, tells a great story in his book Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives. The story comes from one of Dr. Dobson’s friends, Dr. William Slonecker. Dr. Slonecker was a pediatrician who had the unfortunate assignment of having a ten-year-old terror named Robert as one of his patients.
Dr. Slonecker and his staff dreaded the days when Robert would show up for appointments. During those visits the little hellion would run around grabbing instruments, files, telephones, or anything else that suited him. All the while, his passive mother would do little more than watch him go.
During one examination, Dr. Slonecker happened to notice that Robert’s teeth were in poor shape. Slonecker wasn’t a dentist, but even he could tell that Robert had several cavities. Clearly, a referral to a local dentist was in order. But which of Slonecker’s dentist friends would be granted the “pleasure” of receiving the new patient? It was a tough decision because Robert’s behavior was bad enough to possibly end a professional friendship. After some thought, Slonecker settled upon a certain dentist who had a reputation for doing well with children.
The appointment was made, and Robert arrived at the dentist’s office fully ready to conquer the new terrain. “Get in the chair, young man,” said the dentist. “No!” shot back Robert. “Son, I told you to get into that chair, and that’s what I intend for you to do,” the dentist answered sternly. Robert stared the man down for a moment and then threatened, “If you make me get in that chair, I will take off all my clothes.” Calmly, the dentist replied, “Okay, take ’em off.”
Robert was surprised that his threat didn’t have more of an impact, but he wasn’t done yet. Immediately, he set himself to the task of taking off his shirt, shoes, and socks. Once they were removed he defiantly looked at the dentist as if to say, “You didn’t think I would do it, did you?”
“All right,” said the dentist. “Now get in the chair.” With less confidence in his voice this time, Robert responded, “You didn’t hear me. I said if you make me get in that chair, I will take off all my clothes.” But the dentist still wasn’t phased. Again, he calmly said, “Okay, take ’em off.”
This left Robert with only one more card to play, and he played it by taking off his pants and shorts. Now he was standing buck naked in front of the dentist and the dentist’s assistant. Then the dentist once again repeated his familiar command, “Now, son, get in the chair.” This time Robert did as he was told and sat cooperatively through a difficult session as multiple cavities were filled.
At the close of the session, Robert told the dentist, “Give me my clothes.” The dentist, however, wouldn’t oblige. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Tell your mother that we’re going to keep your clothes tonight. She can pick them up tomorrow.” Robert, by now a thoroughly defeated former tough guy, meekly followed the assistant out the door and into the waiting room. There sat not only his mother but a room filled with other patients and parents. Imagine everybody’s surprise as a ten-year-old wearing no clothes was led by his mother out of the office, into the elevator, and out into the parking lot.
The next day, Robert’s mother returned to the dentist’s office to claim Robert’s clothes. The staff wasn’t one bit surprised when she asked to have a word with the dentist, but as it turned out she wasn’t there to rebuke him. To the contrary, she told him the following:
You don’t know how much I appreciate what happened here yesterday. Robert has been blackmailing me about his clothes for years. Whenever we are in a public place, such as a grocery store, he makes unreasonable demands of me. If I don’t immediately buy him what he wants, he threatens to take off all his clothes. You are the first person who has called his bluff, doctor, and the impact on Robert has been incredible!
Extreme situations sometimes call for extreme measures, and drastic problems sometimes call for drastic solutions. It could be that God is right now telling you to get radical regarding some situation or problem that has been plaguing you for a long time. If that’s the case, the only question left to be answered is: Are you willing to “go there” and do whatever it is that God is telling you to do? One day a dentist “went there” and a rebellious kid name Robert turned out all the better for it. That story proves that “outside the box” solutions can work. Obviously, you need to make certain that God is in your uncommon course of action, but if He is, then you should launch into it with confidence that He will stand behind you all the way.