When Covid-19 hit the United States, health departments scrambled to put out a questionnaire to identify potential Covid patients. One tell-tale sign that set Covid apart from the flu or seasonal cold was a sudden loss of taste and smell. They say close to 80% of those infected with the virus will at least lose some of these senses.
While on our missions trip in Guatemala, I contracted Covid. One day I woke up and had totally lost my taste and smell—100%. It was strange! I couldn’t “wake up and smell the coffee.” Even worse, I couldn’t taste the coffee. I couldn’t smell chicken being barbequed when I was standing right next to it. My kids came in one morning and said, “Andrew has a stinky (diaper).” Had they not told us, we’d never have known until it was, shall we say, too late.
According to medical science, the virus kills or damages the neurons that transmit how your nose perceives smells to your brain. The amount of damage determines the road to recovery. There are exercises one can do to reteach or recover these senses more quickly, and some do—while some remain dull in their senses more than a year later.
Hebrews 5:11-14 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat… But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
While a loss of physical senses can bring undesirable consequences, the dulling of spiritual senses has far greater implications. Christ, and the apostle Paul spoke often of people who had lost their spiritual ability to see, hear, and perceive. We need our spiritual senses, in our church, our homes, and in our lives. We need our spiritual senses to discern God’s will. We need our spiritual senses to be receptive to the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. We need our spiritual senses to discern a fool or wolf in sheep’s clothing. We need our spiritual senses to discern where the hearts of our children are. But if we’re not careful, they can start to dull, and we no longer have the spiritual senses we once had, or that God desires us to have for successful Christian living.
How then, can our senses stay healthy? Hebrews gives one word: exercised. If they’re going to stay sensitive and useful, we must exercise them. Scripture is saying, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” When our spiritual neurons pick up something in the preaching that applies to us, we need to do something about it. When our spiritual receptors pick up something that the Holy Spirit speaks to us about, we should do something about it. When our spiritual senses pick something up in our daily time with the Lord (which should be regularly!), we do something about it. If we sit on it, and don’t exercise our senses, eventually they’ll become dull, and we’ll backtrack, or even worse, backslide.
How are our spiritual senses? Do we discern things like we once did? Are we sensitive to the preaching, the Holy Spirit’s working, things going on around us, as we once were? Let’s keep our senses exercised, so that they continue to be useful in our lives.