When I was younger, each summer my parents would drive me from San Diego to Los Angeles and drop me off at my grandparents’ home for a week’s vacation. My aunt and uncle lived next door so I spent my time going between their two houses. Both homes had something in common- they smelled. My grandparent’s home, less so, but there was still this distinct odor. But, after a couple of days, I got used to it. The smell had “gone away,” that is until I got back home and opened up my suit case. The smell was back! It went away once my clothes were washed.
Where did the smell come from? Probably from the 40 or 50 years my grandparents lived in their home as both they and it aged, all the while accumulating stuff. They had developed nose blindness and were unaware of the odor.
In a previous post I suggested that stepping back and taking the time to ask questions is important. My thoughts in the article were limited to asking questions that related to textbooks, courses, time spent on subjects- school stuff. As important as those questions are, asking questions that relate to lifestyle and worldview are perhaps more important.
While I think we all suffer from “nose blindness” to one degree or another, asking questions can help clear the air. But, we’ve got to muster the courage to do so, and sometimes that’s hard. We often find ourselves vacillating between stirring things up and saying little or nothing. We’re more peer dependent than we want to admit.
As a young Christian, I was surrounded by well-meaning Christians who promoted the status quo by invoking “touch not God’s anointed” whenever someone began to voice concern or discontent with the immediate leadership. Their comment was basically a polite, but firm way of saying shut up and get back in line.
Shutting up and staying in line for a prolonged period often leads to internal turmoil. Sometimes when people finally leave an unhealthy situation and break free, they regain their sense of smell. They begin to see things for what they truly are. Individual responses can be unexpected, sudden and dramatic, like that of the news anchor in the 1975 film classic, Network. Publicly, on air, Howard Beale announces that, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
When someone regains their sense of smell, a book may not be far behind. A number of years ago when I was going through a crisis of sorts, I picked up one written by one of my favorite authors, Steve Brown. The title speaks for itself: What Was I thinking? Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All. Steve, after regaining his sense of smell, was compelled to write. What he wrote resonated with me.
A more current title, The Scarlet Virgins, written by Rebecca Lemke, tells her story of what it was like as a homeschooler growing up in a purity culture gone legalistic. Well-intentioned as the parents involved may have been in the beginning, the culture morphed into an oppressive, shaming experience for many young people. Sadly, some left the faith. They just couldn’t measure up to the standards of the community they were a part of.
Pulling back, or simply taking a break from something that is beginning to feel “off” whether it’s a home school group, a church, or a relationship is OK. It may be even necessary for you to get your sense of smell back. When we’re in the middle of something, it’s hard to discern what’s bothering us. We’re too close. Our perspective is colored and unduly influenced by the accompanying relationships. But, once you’ve been away for a while and have had time to question what’s going on, your sense of smell will likely return. You’ll be able to see and think more clearly. You’ll experience some freedom, and that’s a good thing!