I was immersed in a sermon today, which led me into another expedition into the parable most commonly called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but more appropriately entitled the Parable of the Loving Father. The phrase that suddenly leapt upon me was “he came to his senses” (Luke 15:17). This is a common phrase, one that hasn’t caused me to pause previously, but today it rang in my ears.
Came to his senses – come to one’s senses – come to your senses. I immediately envisioned someone in the movies shaking someone else desperately shouting, “Get ahold of you self, man! Come to your senses!!” But in this moment, I heard the phrase in a very literal sense. What does it mean to come to your senses?
I was reminded of times of great revelation (not revelation in the sense of John’s Revelation, the last book in the Bible, but moments of revelation). In every instance, I had become encultured to my surroundings. As such, my senses were dulled. It’s natural to adapt to your environment and when you are in a swirl of negativity it’s all too easy to spiral down. Those are the times you need a revelation, to come to your senses.
Sight – When things come into focus you begin to see things clearly. When relieved of the temporary blindness Paul experienced from his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Lord, the scriptures say, “something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight”(Acts 9:18). Note also the healing story where Jesus restored a man’s eyesight and the man responded, “‘I see men; for I see them like trees walking.’ Then again he laid his hands on his eyes. He looked intently, and was restored, and saw everyone clearly” (Mark 8:22-26). Both men came to their senses with regard to sight. When I am in the grip of negativity, I see everything darkly, but when I am shaken and come to my senses, I begin to see everything in new light.
Hearing – Discord seems to be the operating mode of the world right now. It’s as if people are walking through their days looking for opportunities to take offense or to find someone with whom they can start an argument. We are living out the circumstance Paul described when writing to Timothy, “obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such” (1 Timothy 6:4-5). My natural tendency is to jump at these opportunities, to weigh in to set the record straight. What I find instead is argument breeds argument and no one is persuaded from their positions. I need to come to my sense of hearing and hear the ranting for what it is – empty words of little importance. When I come to my senses, I heed Paul’s advice and walk away.
Smell – Creeping negativity has two impacts on my sense of smell – either it dulls my sensitivity to aromas or it tinges them with acridity.
I miss out on all the delicate olfactory stimulants that come my way. When I come to my senses, I wake up and smell the flowers, often quite literally. I get a waft of perfume or cologne. I wander into Jimmy John’s sandwich shop and take them up on their offer of Free Smells of fresh bread baking. I can be wonderfully transported back to the smell of the ocean while sitting on the beach, or the fragrance of old books upon entering a quaint used book store, or to a place of worship of past experience.
Taste – When I’m in times of trial, eating loses much of its appeal. It’s a sure sign of anxiety because I adore eating. I associate eating with joy and celebration. Celebrating with friends and family over food is the best! I never smoked, but I’ve often overheard recovering smokers say how much better food suddenly tastes. Coming back to one’s sense of taste brightens the world around you.
Touch – I can’t imagine losing my sense of touch, but leprosy and other skin diseases rob one of one’s sense of feeling. Imagine the joy of the lepers Jesus healed to hold and be held again (Luke 11:17-19). Chemotherapy can also rob one tactile sensation. What joy when feeling returns.
Jesus proclaimed, “I came that [you] may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus didn’t come to whisk us away from this world. Rather, his walk on the earth was directed in part to shaking us from our lethargy, to get us to come to our senses.
Lord, awaken in me a fresh spirit,