I have a hard time answering that quintessential road trip time passing question “If you had to give up one, what one sense could you live with out?” But I can answer a related question. The one sense I could not live with out is the sense of smell.
Yes, my olfactory perception is both keen and cherished. When I travel, I don’t just experience a place by seeing it, I take a deep whiff and smell it in (not great when you’re in a tannery in Morocco, but that’s a story for another day). When I’m offered some new food or beverage, like many others, I smell it in. Like few others, I sometimes would rather just keep smelling it than digesting it.
Seriously, I feel like I get full off of the smell of food when I cook, which often means by the time the food is on the table, I’m not particularly hungry. This past Friday, I had already eaten a heavy snack late in the afternoon, so didn’t feel like eating dinner. But there were some vegetables in the fridge that I knew only had a limited shelf life, so I thought I would make some vegetable stock to freeze and use in soups later.
I chopped up the vegetables, and browned them in some olive oil for a few minutes. They smelled wonderful, the scent of the caramelized sugars in the vegetables mingling with the fatty oil was perfect. I threw them into the soup pot with water, covered it with a lid, and left it to simmer for about forty-five minutes.
I pattered around the kitchen, washing some dishes, making another dish out of more food on the verge of expiration, and the aroma of the vegetable broth kept following me. Soon it became almost overwhelming. I cannot wait to use that in a soup! I thought. It’ll be so better than store-bought stock.
I noticed there were only a few more minutes on the timer. The smell was so good, I could only imagine what it would smell like without out the lid on the pot. Not able to wait any longer, I crouched down next to the pot, placing my nose right next to the lid. I gingerly lifted the lid, deeply inhaled and…..
Completely burned my right nostril and upper lip with steam.
At first I thought it wasn’t that bad. But the pain quickly intensified to the point where I was losing my ability to think rationally. How in the world did I just do that? I suppose leaving the lid on for almost an hour did permit maximum steam build up. And I was about as close to the pot as I could get without burning my nose on the pot itself. All I wanted was a good sense of the sent.
I ended up with an icepack on my face for a good couple hours, followed by aloe to try to encourage healing until I went to sleep. I was thankful that besides a little redness on my nose, the burn didn’t really show. Now it’s peeling, though, so it’s more visible. Being January in Michigan, white flaky skin on one’s face isn’t all that uncommon, though usually produced from wind burn. But still, quite unseemly.
Yes, the broth turned out good (still can’t wait to make soup), but now I have an injury to show for it. In typical fashion, I found a way to burn myself in the kitchen (I can show you scars of previous incidents). And I learned a lesson. Lift the lid with your face far away, and wave the fumes towards you to take a sniff (I think maybe they told us that in high school chemistry, now that I think about it).
But it reminded me of sin. That thought, that action, can seem like it will be such a pleasing thing, we just need to lift the lid off of it to really enjoy. As soon as we do, though, we get burned, and sometimes even scarred.
No matter how good it smells, don’t mess with sin. I think that’s why when Jesus taught us to pray, He didn’t say “help us not to sin,” but rather “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6: 13).
Not even into temptation–not even a smell of it.