Anosmia, Gluttony and Other Annoying Things
January 26, 2021 | Jaci Miller
I’ve been quarantined. And I’ve lost my ability to smell or taste. So naturally, boredom snacking has gone out the window. Oh, a few times, I’ve munched on something hoping that I can force my senses back into recognition or recall the flavor through texture (no go). But true hunger has become a much closer guide in my eating habits.
In some ways, this is a good thing. But I’ve found myself frustrated at the lack of control I have over my senses. I worry about not being able to smell smoke (in case of fire). I’m concerned about being able to do my job (locating and changing dirty diapers is important). I fear I’ll never enjoy cooking again (I do relish the buttery chocolate aroma of homemade brownies). Coming upon the holidays, this feels even more like a loss.
As I struggle to figure out why this particular loss bothers me so, it dawns on me that maybe God wants to use this time to break down a vice. One of the last vices remaining to “good” Christians: food. Eating for pure pleasure, rather than sustenance.
Don’t misunderstand me. God created taste buds as well as delicious food and designed them to harmonize in amazing ways; this was a gift to us. But eating from boredom or grief or frustration, or stuffing myself for pleasure’s sake? Somehow, Christians willingly overlook this gluttony. I overlook this gluttony.
So, I look for what God is trying to teach me from this “loss.”
Be more generous. Allowing others to eat the last piece of (what I assume is) deliciousness. Because it’s not always about what I want first. If I can’t taste it, why should I want it for myself? Yet, somehow, I still selfishly do. Maybe God is easing me into the habit of generosity.
Reject idolatry. Burying myself in the tub of ice cream may momentarily make me feel better, but reaching for the Father fixes what lies underneath. Turning to food focuses on the idol of the quick fix and the fast reward. But real spiritual maturity is patient, delaying gratification for the something better that God offers those willing to wait upon Him. Perhaps God is training me away from those old patterns, to reject what food used to mean to me.
Deny self. Saying no to something once in a while requires self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God gives us a spirit of power, love and discipline. What He gives us He surely expects us to use. If I am so unpracticed at saying no to a bag of Doritos, how can I possibly reject that which has even greater significance to my spiritual life? This anosmia (that’s the fancy word for inability to smell—I checked) is an opportunity to learn self-denial. God is baby-stepping me, if you will, toward saying no to food more often.
Decide to trust. A small possibility exists of never regaining these senses. Or of them returning but in a diminished capacity. Will I trust God with that possibility? Can I let go of my love for food and focus on a greater love for God? As I pray for the return of my senses, I choose to trust that God is still walking with me on this COVID journey.
Focus on gratitude. Surrounded by abundance that I no longer desire to eat, I realize just how much food is in my home. Surrounded by news reports of lung transplants and COVID-related deaths, I realize just how healthy I am. I’ve lost two senses, but they are the ones I can still function without. I can thank God that, despite the frustration and inconvenience, I am really okay. He deserves thanks for that.
As I come to understand this more mindful relationship with food, I pray that it also moves me into a more mindful relationship with God. That I may be voracious only for Him. Even sans two senses, I am grateful I can still “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34, NIV).
What is God teaching you through this strange year?
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