What chicken wings taught me about living

This article was originally published on the Freed-Hardeman University Beyond the Tassel college alumni blog series.

That this is what we fear — no sight, no sound, 
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anesthetic from which none come round.

“Aubade” by Philip Larkin

Here we are, navigating the choppy waters of what seems like a never-ending global pandemic. While hope remains firmly planted on the horizon, it’s out of focus at times, cloudy with variants and surges. I know it’s far too early to “call it,” but with vaccines, we are thankfully doing some damage to Covid-19. We are cautiously and optimistically making our best efforts to return to all the things we so casually took for granted before 2020.

But are we truly getting back to all the things? Like we once were? Undoubtedly, this challenge has altered us in some ways—some good, some bad. Many of us have reconnected to a passion or recommitted ourselves to our families, our friends, and our faith. That’s all good stuff. 

For others, however, a once sparkling, colorful world has lost its luster. Wherever you are on the spectrum of fear to freedom, the world now can feel like an awkward, new space that is foreign, gray, and hollow.

For my college-age son, who had Covid-19 last year, this world has been exceedingly bland. He completely lost his taste and smell for more than six months. The aftermath has been tough on him. When I tell you that this young man has a deep, personal relationship with chicken wings, I am not kidding. He experienced a sudden break-up with food with no promise it would ever return.

In perspective with the tragic toll of the disease, losses like this are nothing. Even so, the slightest ripple effects are effects we’re learning to live with. Thankfully, after too many months of this void, my son’s senses are waking up from hibernation.

But just like our own current reality, life is different for him. He doesn’t love hamburgers anymore. Scrambled eggs are a chore. Special desserts aren’t that special now. Fortunately, chicken wings have made a comeback (the spicier, the better!), but there’s still something missing. The vibrancy in flavors is somehow less. His cravings aren’t the same.

I believe our cravings have changed too. I’ve noticed an unfortunate chilling effect on our craving for community. It seems simpler now to do everything remote, right? We’ve discovered we can worship, or study, or teach, or talk, or sing, or laugh, without ever leaving the couch. If we want to, we can depend solely on emojis to express how we feel. That is utterly 😩.

Let’s be honest. It got easy to do everything from a comfortable, sanitized distance. Too easy. And life is hard. Maybe this is better? What’s the big deal?

Here’s why I believe it’s a massive deal. 

If we choose to accept this and chalk it up to “everything’s changed since Covid,” and “life will never be the same,” then: 

1) Satan gets a foothold. Spoiler Alert: Satan loses in the end, but this virus has proven to be a crafty, divisive weapon against our churches, our families, and our relationships; and

2) We’re not giving God enough credit. We’re choosing to settle for a flavorless, flat world of our own making, not His.

God showers us with the most wonderful things to enjoy— to touch, to smell, to see, to taste, and to feel! Most importantly, he gives us each other. Despite what you’ve seen on TV, most people are still amazing!

As I approach my 50th birthday this year (ouch), I’ll admit the big picture has become clearer. Hindsight is a remarkable gift. During these grueling months of global loss, I witnessed and experienced personal loss too. In my college alumni family, we lost far too many incredible souls too soon. 

One of my best college friends unexpectedly passed from a non-Covid related illness. Sadly, we were out of touch for years. We had recently reconnected on social media, but I let the busyness of life keep me from reaching out to him sooner. I have deep regrets about that missed opportunity for a reunion this side of Heaven. 

It’s regret that resonates so clearly with me now. As we strive to move on and out of Covid captivity, I’m vowing to pursue more of the messy, but meaningful moments in person. Even when they infringe upon my comfort zone, even when I have to get in my car or put on make-up, even when they require more of me—who cares? These moments may not achieve Instagram perfection, but thank goodness they will be real. They are the best part of what we’ve got here for as long as we’ve got it. 

While this world is not our home, I believe it’s a 5-D preview of what’s to come, an infinitely small taste of Heaven. It’s up to us to get out there and savor it. 

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! 

Psalms 34:8 (NLT)

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