Just before the calendar turned to November 2020, I was driving to work and noticed that I couldn’t taste my coffee and Cliff Bar. That set off all sorts of warning flags since the loss of taste and smell is one of the many possible symptoms of Covid-19. For those that don’t know, my primary job is the IT Director at a nearby school district. And I teach a couple of classes at the High School. Anyway, I went straight to my office and verified my concern. I couldn’t smell a pungent citrusy cleaner or the eucalyptus-scented hand sanitizer.
After a few phone calls and emails, I drove to Peoria to get tested and then home. The results came in a few days later – the virus was “detected,” and I was Covid-19 positive. There were a few other symptoms that went before and after; a sinus infection kind of runny nose, headaches, a sleepy kind of fatigue, and some slight aches and pains. My central symptom was the loss of taste and smell.
The complete loss of a sense was something new for me and something that created more than a few moments of humor. On my first day in quarantine, Betty made some banana bread. After it cooled, I tried a slice and said teasingly, “I think you forget the bananas.” Another night my wife made what is normally a very flavorful and tasty dish for supper. As I got up from the table, I said, “I’m sure that tasted fantastic.” I couldn’t tell one way or another.
At another time, I told her, “you may as well make something you like such as rhubarb pie (a dessert I don’t care for) since this may be the one time I’ll eat it.” Unfortunately, rhubarb was out of season. Every day she’d caringly ask what I’d like to lunch or supper. Eventually, I suggested that she make whatever sounds good to her since I had no joy in eating.
Perhaps a benefit was that this strange lack of taste meant no need to salt certain foods at the table. I couldn’t sense salt, bitter, sour, or sweet. I could, however, feel the texture of the food and its temperature, but none of what we call taste. The good news is that my sense of taste and smell has slowly returned to normal.
God is good; during these couple of weeks, I experienced His peace and the prayers of many. Even though I didn’t know how this not-so-young body would react to the virus, I knew that it was all in God’s hand.
One verse that comes to mind out of all of this is about the ability to taste salt. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matthew 5:13, NASB95) Although a bit reversed, my covid journey created a lot of “why bother” moments. Why bother putting salt on food when I couldn’t taste it? Or why bother putting drink mix in my water to add a little flavor?
If our faith in Jesus is not flavoring the world around us, why bother? If we are not bringing God’s peace, compassion, and hope to our world, then we have no flavor and no purpose. Why bother? It doesn’t take much salt to enhance the flavor of foods, and it doesn’t take much peace, compassion, and hope to change the flavor of our world, or another’s life.
But there is another side. Sometimes we’re flavoring our world, but others aren’t tasting it. In all the foods I ate while fighting Covid, the flavor was there whether I could taste it or not. The problem obviously wasn’t the food. For those folks, we need to keep showing peace, compassion, and hope even if they don’t recognize it. This requires a measure of forgiveness and patience and prayer until the day when some of our flavoring in Christ breaks through to them.