The Christian author Frederick Buechner wrote in Godric:
“What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”
Studies show that smell is by far our most accurate sense. A single sniff of a freshly baked apple pie, for example, can cause an emotional response in ways that are not possible by touching it or looking at it. Our reactions to a particular odor largely depend on our experience with it and what our brain remembers.
We can breathe a whiff of a scent that we haven’t smelled in twenty or thirty years and instantly, we’re transported back to a particular moment in time. The salty, exhilarating aroma of the ocean where you took your honeymoon. The strong smell of paint that reminds you of the day you decorated your first home. A favorite perfume that your mother wore. The woodsy scent of cedar on a handmade quilt.
Author Ellen Vaughn writes, “Years ago there was an incident on the Washington subway system in which a crowded train stalled on an underground track. Harried commuters were beside themselves. No one had been talking to one another, but now they burst into mutual, frenzied spurts of accusations against the driver—as if the situation was under his control—the Metro authorities, the federal government, anyone and everyone they could blame for this vile inconvenience.Somewhere in the midst of all this invective, a woman with a number of bulky shopping bags dropped a new bottle of perfume, and it shattered. Within a few minutes, the pure, luxurious fragrance had wafted the length of the crowded car. It was as if the fresh smell released people from a dark spell. They sniffed, smiled, and relaxed, laughing with each other. Surprise!
Followers of Jesus have the opportunity, in life’s crowded moments when people feel stuck, to be the fragrance of Christ. We don’t need to be annoying Pollyannas (who would be thrown right off the Metro anyway), but free spirits—saints and poets—who can lead and turn the tide, rather than follow along on the lazy downward spiral of negativity…. Then follows the creative question in the bad situation, a smile, compassion, a little humor that suggests that we need not take our small selves so seriously—a look upward and outward, where the vistas of God’s great love call us to come and enjoy him, now and forever.”1
When we allow ourselves to be broken and spilled out as a sacrifice for others, we release the fragrant, beautiful aroma of Christ. And that aroma instantly reminds others of who God is.
How are you faring in the “fragrance of Christ” department? Do you tend to absorb and reflect the negativity of those around you, or does the sweet aroma of Christlikeness flow from your soul like an expensive perfume?
Do you provide others with a refreshing burst of grace and positive perspective even in the most difficult situations? If not, take a moment to look at what might be found and redeemed from even the toughest circumstances.
1. Ellen Vaughn, Radical Gratitude, Zondervan.