Would it surprise you to learn that one of the top enticing scents, when put to a vote, is ‘that new car smell’? I know. I’m skeptical too. Which segment of the population chose new car scent over cinnamon or pine, right? When I heard of that ‘tested result’ the wheels in my head started turning. As part of the older generation, I have wheels, not kernels in my brain. I wondered what is so alluring about ‘that new car smell’ that individuals actually purchase the fragrance in a bottle. In years past, it could have been the musky aroma of genuine leather wrapped and stitched around seat cushions; sometimes even affixed to the dashboard. Genuine, real, authentic, durable leather – ‘that new car scent’. If you long to enter your automobile and breathe in the essence of new car, it’s available in a bottle at a cost of under $10 – and there is no need to ever ride in your car without it, because you can sign up for auto-ship….just subscribe.
I’m not sure when we crossed over to the new car scent of today. Wikipedia describes a new version of ‘that new car scent’. “Most of the interior of an automobile consists of plastic held together with a number of adhesives and sealers..these materials are left slightly unstable, and continue to release volatile organic compounds into the air afterward…fumes may also come from phthalates and other plastic-softening chemicals that evaporate over time. Scientists recommend keeping new cars well ventilated while driving due to the emitted chemicals.” Wikipedia also proclaims that there is a significant reduction in chemical breakdown after about two months. Interesting that the suggested auto-ship frequency for a bottled new car smell is two months.
We are immersed in lifestyles that combine the authentic with the artificial. When we can’t get the real thing, we find a substitute. Don’t get me wrong. We need substitutes; many of them critical to sustaining life. I can think of several; pacemakers, insulin, heart valves, or the whole heart. But this is different. There are times when artificial comes to us indistinguishable from what is real. We question what to believe, what to support, what acts to perform, or what to do with the next few hours in our day. We listen to the news or read a compelling article that has all the components of believability. Facts are cited, credible opinions given; it’s solid. Then it happens. In the next hour, the flipside is presented and suddenly what seemed solid crumbles. Which side is authentic and which is artificial? It’s not as easy as picking side one or side two, is it? Our minds become a sorting algorithm: searching what we know to be true, adding opinions we have formed, mixing in outside perspectives, then merging it with our values – mix well, pour into pans and bake till golden.
The debates are heavy in the world. I’ve adopted a motto of sorts that says “I can’t change the world, but I can make a difference, one attitude at a time.” The heat of debate doesn’t interest me, but being an authentic carrier of faith does. This debate dilemma has followed humankind since the beginning of time when Eve encountered the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Remember that God clearly told Adam and Eve not to eat fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil because they would “surely die”. That sounds pretty authentic to me. But then the serpent slithered up and mockingly announced oh for cryin’ out loud. God is not going to kill you. Forget about it. ““You will not certainly die!” (Genesis 3:4) Artificial factoid from the insidious lies of the enemy. We all know how that story ended. God shut down the garden and kicked Adam and Eve into their new reality. Now that is authentic!
I’ve been thinking a lot about things artificial and things authentic lately. Not so much in the manufactured products that attempt to replace real with a suitable facsimile. That aspect is a matter of educated (or opinionated) choices. I know the sensuous aroma of genuine leather can never be replicated in an artificial environment. What appears to be authentic is, in fact completely artificial and in some cases, even toxic. That’s where this new insight forms a pattern in what I strive to ingrain in my mind and becomes an act of my heart. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who authentically handles the word of truth.” In the King James Version, it says to study – study to be approved. I don’t study enough or spend enough time alone with God to know in an instant if what I’m perceiving is His authentic word or my artificial interpretation. Recently I ran across this verse while reading the Message translation. I wrote it down so I would remember it when the cacophony of opinions are battling in my head. John 7:24 “Don’t be nitpickers; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right.”
Did you catch that? Use your head and your heart to discern. That’s how to be authentic, to sort out what is good. Romans 12:12 describes the process of becoming authentic “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” If you’re looking for perfect, you won’t find it in me. But I hope day by day I become more and more authentic in my faith and prove it by my acts. James must have known some of us would be slow to get his point so in the 2nd chapter of James he gives it to us straight in verses 17, 20, and 26. “Faith without deeds is dead.” If you’re reading this, you’re alive. How is your faith? Is it authentic and approved? Or is it artificial and toxic? 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”