With my recent COVID-19 diagnosis, I acquired a strange, unwelcome gift—the loss of my senses of smell and taste. First of all, you should know that I’m kinda famous (at least within the confines of my own mind) for my uncanny ability to smell things. I even wrote a fictional character in my middle grade fantasy series who has the power to smell the future. (I called his power “Olfavoyance…Nose-tradamus? A Schnoz-ard?”)
As with most super-powers, mine is both a blessing and a curse. For instance, I knew fairly quickly when my kids had poopy diapers. I could detect when the food in the oven was done without the aid of a timer. I could narrow in on the source of a bad smell like a bloodhound. But odors, even ones that first came well-received like Chick-Fil-A nuggets from the drive-thru line, would linger and eventually displease me. The smell would have to be eradicated, or I would find no rest. (Cue Hero Shot—Abby’s cape blowing in the wind as she stares off into a busy, nighttime metropolis.)
But once the virus took away my ability to smell—and therefore my ability to taste—I struggled to find pleasure in the same things I enjoyed before. My daughter baked banana bread, but I couldn’t smell or taste its goodness. I couldn’t appreciate a flowery hand soap or the scent of clean bed sheets. I could no longer delight in outdoor smells like the honest, sneezy splendor of a freshly mowed lawn. It felt like I was taking in the world only halfway. Something was definitely missing.
Being able to smell isn’t the same as being able to truly love others, but when the Apostle Paul describes the gifts of language and intelligence and faith and generosity in 1 Corinthians 13, he says they are nothing without love. Just like banana bread is just a brown lump of sugar and carbs if I can’t fully smell and taste it.
“Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
I don’t know why this virus does what it’s been doing. None of it makes sense to me. So much of the madness of the last year has been a series of “puzzling reflections.” That’s why I’m grateful for my faith in a God who has all the answers when I feel like I have next to none. I’m hanging on the promise that someday I will understand everything just as completely as my Maker understands me.