“Can you smell that?” This question came up yesterday when someone who had never been at my home before sensed an odor outside my house that didn’t quite smell like it belonged there. Despite my protests and denials, and after some investigation, we discovered that there was indeed a leak to my sewer system just down the hill from my house. I hadn’t noticed it before that moment, but since he pointed it out, I can’t help but notice it now: it’s inescapable. I was amazed that such an obvious smell hadn’t been detected sooner, but the fact is that I didn’t notice because it had started out so small and grown by such small increments. The slow but significant growth over time that developed into an overwhelming power was not noticed because not only was I so accustomed to it but also because it had crept up on me. There are certain elements in life that we just become accustomed to because they are always there in the background. Much like the idea of background noise, we never really notice them until they’re pointed out to us. Sometimes these items become background noise not because of their incremental growth but because we’ve grown so used to them being there that they effortlessly float into the background of our lives. At Christmas time, we get so used to the Christmas decorations that invade our house and become so used to them being there, that they become everyday items to the point of invisibility. And just when we think we’ve put them all away, it is suddenly mid-March when a missed decoration is pointed out to us by a visitor. We can’t believe we didn’t notice it before then: we’d just grown so used to it that it becomes invisible. Another’s perspective can often shed new light on our situation. A second set of eyes can be helpful in seeing what is so obvious to many but so imperceptible to us. We tend to inadvertently overlook things in our lives that may be causing us harm, and our good intentions can be easily foiled by unnoticed sin. How can we notice the unnoticeable, perceive the imperceptible? The author of Proverbs 19.20 suggests: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” Opening up our lives to not only God but also to our fellow brothers and sisters invites counsel and good advice, helping to find those areas that we wouldn’t have noticed on our own. Asking for a keen eye on your life choices can guide you towards a closer walk with Him. We may be in desperate need of help and not even know it, but with close fellowship, we can find those background items before they overwhelm us. With close communion with others, we can lovingly find out what others so plainly see. In isolation, without the counsel of others, it can be a slippery slope of undetectable wandering. When enough frustration grows in our lives, we become ever-increasingly impatient, and unaware to our perception, a streak of anger takes hold of us. Addiction starts out small, and we think we can quit at any time, but before we know that it’s happening, that addiction controls us. Small compromises in our Christian walk grow to larger gaps we don’t notice. With the help of a close friend’s counsel, we can see the things that have taken more than a foothold in our lives when we ourselves don’t see them, and we can then work towards correcting them. Fellowship seeks in love what we can miss in ignorance. Amen.