Like most people, I had a variety of jobs growing up before finally settling into my career. Two of them in particular stand out to me. The first was when I became a food server for Texas Roadhouse. I loved their food, I loved the fun and upbeat environment, I even loved being the one to shout out the birthday ritual.
But I hated being a server. The main reason likely stems from the fact that I’m a textbook introvert and not necessarily wired for a job with such constant socializing to it (and almost always with new people I didn’t know).
But the other reason I didn’t enjoy it comes from the fact that people get crazy about what they eat. A “normal” individual can lose their mind when their steak isn’t cooked just right or when you forget to include a small customization they requested. This surprised me and left a lasting impression on me to this day (I’ve always had a deep connection to the disciples in Acts 6:2).
The second job that stands out to me was when I sold cologne at department stores. I was the guy you walk past and attempt not to make eye contact with. If you did, I’d hand you a scented card and try to start up a conversation with you.
I loved the flexibility of the position, the bottles and bottles of free cologne I got from working there, and the pay was great. And unlike being a food server, I loved the job (evidently my introversion didn’t affect me quite as much in this role). People are just as crazy about the smells they willingly choose to spray on themselves, but this was much more of an intentional conversation.
Yet, for as many people that love a fragrance, you will meet just as many who have an allergic reaction to it or at least a strong reaction of dislike. I have memories of people literally running from me when they realized what I was doing.
With food, our appetites are perpetual and yet sometimes cause us to act abnormally — think of the Snickers commercials or how we describe someone as “hangry” (hungry + angry) — but we all must eat. With fragrances, we usually choose what we want or strategically avoid what we don’t like. But I’ve yet to meet someone who is “fragrantly neutral.” Our reaction usually starts in our face and works its way to the rest of our body.
Tasting and smelling are part of being a fully functioning human. That is why we see our faith connected to these images in the Scriptures. In Psalm 34:8, King David invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” In the second letter to the Church in Corinth, the apostle Paul says, “we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ.” Here are the authors of the Bible connecting my early jobs with my faith. More than that, they connect the human experience with our God. God is not someone to be merely read about or studied. He is a God to be experienced. When it comes to tastes and smells you cannot be passive. You will always have a response.
This is one of the most brilliant connections to the specific way Jesus instructed us to remember Him. He used a meal. Whatever we choose to call it (communion, Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, etc.), the point is that we follow Christ in community by experiencing.
One of the reasons that American Christianity is often so lifeless is that we’ve taken life experiences out of our faith. We are content to talk about God or to listen to someone talk about Him once a week. It doesn’t need to be this way. We can wake each day and pray boldly for God to allow us to experience Him. His Kingdom is in our midst when we live by it, “on earth as it is in heaven.” And when we pray that way we’ll experience a living and real God who is anything but passive.
• Jeremy Jernigan is executive pastor of creative arts at Central Christian Church. As a second-generation preacher, he has a passion for discovering and communicating truth and has authored the book, “Crowdsourcing the Message.” Connect with him on his blog, TomorrowsReflection.com.