Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Be Fragrant

Several years back, when my husband and I admitted to ourselves that marriage had caused us to gain a few pounds which were not entirely pregnancy related, we decided to change our diet.  Instead of looking at caloric intake or finding some fancy system to track our carbs/protien/fat.. etc., we instead decided to try eating a more ethnically eclectic diet.  For several years, our favorite food had been Italian which involved lots of pasta, breads and rich, creamy sauces.  Now, we began to venture into the world of Indian cuisine, experimenting with curries and dahls and chutney.  Soon our cupboards were stocked with colorful, fragrant spices and we quickly learned that tumeric should never be left on the counter, as it's deep yellowy orange color has the staining power of permanent ink!  At one point, our friends jokingly told us that they always knew when our family had arrived at church because they could smell the garlic!  We tried to accept that as a compliment.

Being a young family, we had a lot of friends with small children and one day, a friend of mine was going to drop her little girl off at our place to be looked after for a few hours.  Apparently, her daughter protested, saying that our house smelled funny!  Several months of cooking curries on a regular basis had taken their toll on our house and I guess the smell pretty much permeated the walls and curtains and was noticeable when you walked in the door!  (Good thing it was a rental property! Hee hee!)

Another pungent odor that I'd like to tell you about is relates to my husband.  Now, I know what you're thinking... and it's not what you think!  Ha ha!  Actually, the smell I'm talking about is that of wood-smoke.  My husband has long held the title of 'pyromaniac' and loves to build campfires and burn things.  That fits in quite well with family get-togethers because my older brother is quite passionate about fire as well!  A couple of years ago at Christmastime, our families were together and once the presents were opened and the women were busy in the kitchen, the men headed out to the backyard fire pit to get down to business.  Of course, all fires are more exciting when enhanced by some sort of dangerous fuel, and this event was no exception.  The boys, as I will call them in this scenario, built up for themselves a tower of wood and cardboard, slathered it with gasoline, stood back and threw in a match.  "POOOOF!"  The guys jumped back instinctively and then quickly regained their manly stance of fire technicians on a mission.  The flames of their fire probably rose to heights upwards of 10ft, and we were lucky that the neighbors were occupied with Christmas festivities indoors, and didn't call the fire department!  (Not that a friendly visit including a fire truck would be anything new to my husband and brother... they had quite the history when it came to building gigantic non-conforming campfires within city limits.)

When my husband came inside a short time later, to nibble on Christmas cookies and candy and nuts, I walked over to him and smelled a familiar smell.  "Mmm..." I said as I gave him a hug, "You smell like fire."

"Thank you!" he replied, with a twinkle in his eyes.   The format of this conversation has become a tradition for us -  due to my husband's love of fire, he feels greatly complimented when I comment that he smells of wood smoke.

Unfortunately, one thing I've noticed is that if you spend a great deal of time around a campfire, your clothing can take a very long time before the smell wears off.  There was one particular camping trip that my husband took in the winter and came home stinking like a campfire.  Due to the miserable weather and constant wind, he was encompassed by the smoke of his fire for hours as he and his friends cooked their dinner and sat around talking, late into the night.   When he returned home and walked in the door, I could smell the smoke from across the room!  I washed his sweater right away, but it still reeked of smoke and took another couple of washes before the odor disappeared completely.

You may be wondering how I got onto the topic of pungent fragrances,  and the thought process began quite recently, while I was running outdoors and found myself overcome by the heady, yet deliciously sweet scent of blooming lilacs, apple and cherry blossoms all through the neighborhood.  I instantly thought of the scripture "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." from 2 Corinthians 2:15.

Just what sort of scent is "the fragrance of Christ"?  I imagine it to be an intoxicating perfume that entices you to inhale deep breaths of it's refreshing fragrance.  It's the kind of smell that you want to draw closer to, drench yourself with, and become surrounded by.  You will carry this aroma by spending time in the presence of the source of the fragrance - Jesus.

I could talk about how Christians often stink in the presence of the lost (and I don't deny that many Christians fail to walk in love and are often offensive with their hypocritical behaviour) yet, I think that would be taking this verse out of context, and in the wrong direction.  I really like how The Message translation phrases the verse:

Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation - an aroma redolent with life. 

On our own, we stink.  With Christ, we are drenched and baptized with a sweet smelling perfume - we're made clean and new from the inside-out. Just as I described in the previous paragraphs, you can absorb the scent of food or a campfire that you spend time around.  Jesus is the same.  The more we spend time in His presence, the more we are attuned to His love and character.  After a while, this permeates your life and is evident in the way you talk, and act, and overall in how you are perceived by others.

One last thought... I believe that the fragrance of Christ is characterized by joy.  Those who know God and set their hearts on Him live a blessed life and a contented life.  Psalm 16:11 is a favorite of mine which gives a persuading reason for seeking and experiencing the presence of God.  "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  I want to know God, know the path of life and be filled with joy.  I can't think of a better way to live.

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