A friend shared with me recently that a family member kept smelling a rank odor in the house, but could not, for the longest, pinpoint what it was. Finally, after tracing the smell to the bedroom, and doing some light “remodeling,” a dead squirrel was discovered rotting inside the doorframe! Who would have ever guessed, in a million years, that you’d find such a thing in such a place! Yet, there it was.
Sometimes, this is what the gift of discernment looks like. We smell something “funny” or “not quite right” long before we can pinpoint what it is. And often, the exercise of discernment involves us following our nose (investigating) in a “counter-intuitive” direction. After all, no one would ever think to look inside their bedroom for a dead squirrel!
If I might borrow a thought from scriptures; the author of Hebrews (5:14) says our “powers of discernment” are “trained by constant practice” to “distinguish good from evil.” As we grow in our knowledge of the Word of God and learn to consistently evaluate life through the lens of Scriptures, we’ll be increasingly able to discern when something doesn’t quite “smell right,” or isn’t in line with God’s standard of “rightness.” (Ps. 19:7)
Our nose, or “powers of discernment,” often serves to alert us, to get our attention. This is not to say that every unfamiliar smell represents a threat, and we want to be careful not to jump to hasty conclusions. Yet, at the same time, we need to learn to follow our nose; to pay attention when provoked by an odd odor. We can’t afford to ignore our nose!
Several years ago, my parents awoke to the smell of smoke. Rather than dismiss it, and go back to sleep, they followed the smell of smoke to the opposite end of the house where they discovered the laundry room engulfed in flames! By following their nose, and acting in a timely manner, they saved their lives!
Training your “powers of discernment” (nose) may protect you from some grave dangers and regrets down the road. It might protect some women from marrying an angry, abusive man (II Tim. 3:6), or some young Christians from being led astray by false teachings (Galatians 4:17), or some young men from being seduced by “the girl next door” (Prov. 7:10).
If we’re wise, we’ll chose to live in community with others who are also training their “powers of discernment,” since “two (noses) are better than one.” There are times when the “odd smell” is coming from us! We have a proverbial “dead squirrel” rotting in our life. It is humbling to consider that we are all prone to “stumble in many ways” (Jas 3:2), and often we are blind to our own glaring faults. Though not always pleasant, it’s a very precious gift to have a brother or sister discern a bad attitude, wrong behavior, or troubling character flaw in our lives, and then lovingly confront us on it, that we might repent, and be restored. (Gal. 6)
The good news is, through “constant practice” we can each train our nose to be quite a “hound dog of discernment,” and it just may help us tree a dead squirrel!