Sunday, March 27, 2016

I want to smell good, and strong!

Reprinted from a letter from my dear niece, Emily.

Friends and family!  Happy Easter.  I pray the Lord filled you with Hope today as we remember the new life we have been given in and through Christ.

You're probably wondering why the title of my e-mail is so random...and bazaar.  I suppose it's because I have been thinking about SMELLS all day long.

The smell of french toast frying in the cast iron skillet this morning as I awoke in my parent's guest room to the sound of little feet stomping downstairs.  The smell of coffee.  The smell of poopy diapers and baby powder.  The smell of sugar, and the lemon-ricotta cupcakes.  The smell of sweat as we did a killer Abs/Arms Kayla workout before church. The smell of mint as I brushed my teeth.  The smell of my Mom's luxurious Michael Kors perfume :)    The smell of pork loin roast sizzling for lunch.  The faint scent of flowers sitting on the granite countertop.  The smell of rain coming.  The smell of Nora's amazing potato-leek gratin baking.  The smell of feta and tahini in my salad.  The smell of our delicious red wine.  The aroma of the kids' dirty shoes and feet after their Easter Egg Hunt.  And the funny moment when Mom says to me on the way home from church, "Em, how many sprays of your Chanel Chance perfume did you put on!?  I mean, it smells amazing, but it's a little over-kill...!" ;) 

Smell is so powerful.  They say that smell contains the strongest 'throw-back ability' to your memory, and that it can often lead you right back to the pinpoint of a specific moment.   I believe it.  This past week, I had this weird flood of memories to my Oma's perfume (she died this week 15 years ago) while in Macy's, Tim (my ex-boyfriend's exact cologne) on a man I passed in the street (weird), the faint scent of cedar and rose lotion in my Grandmother's house while I visited her this week, spices that reminded me of Africa (cardamom, etc.), and a host of other memorable smells...

Sometimes I marvel at the uniqueness of smell among the senses -- if we hear or smell something somewhat far away, it draws and allures us towards itself (unless it is a skunk), because we are curious and HAVE to SEE what is going on.  In a lot of ways, Smell is a sense of Faith, not sight at all.  If we smell something lovely from someone's house, or a fire-pit going, we trust (from afar, without seeing) that something nice is taking place, or in progress.  It draws us in, and towards the object from which the scent and aroma is forming.  We can't SEE smells, but we can associate them with a thing, a person, an object, a food, etc.  I remember my Oma's house in Saybrooke -- she would have me over on Sunday nights for "minute steaks," little baby potatoes with tons of butter, green beans with nutmeg, and applesauce (chunky, please).  I could hear the vent outside her kitchen under the awning as I came up the back steps, and my mouth began watering as I smelled those steaks sizzling in her fry pan.

But, aromas can be over-powering at times, right?  Especially if it smells bad, it is just a complete turn-off.  Like the smell of arrogance or anger.  My brother-in-law is amazing at picking out perfumes and colognes for specific people -- and, there's nothing worse than a bad perfume that just doesn't smell good on you, right?  You have to pick the right scent - for yourself.  Or, that crazy Bath and Body Works lotion that came in like "Seabreeze" and "Juniper" and "Dazzle-berry," and we were all so proud of smelling like, well, extremely ridiculous :) Even good aromas can be over-powering.  Have you ever been inside of say, Shake Shack or some big American restaurant, and the oil being fried is so so strong, that it turns your stomach, and you lose your appetite, because even though you WANT to eat those fries, you know the oil is such a strong smell?  Or, we pass by those guys who have on SO much cologne, we think, "Geez, I know you want to leave your scent behind to attract the ladies, but I got the message already -- from 10 feet away!" :)  

Where am I going with this?  2 Corinthians 2:14 says, "But, thanks be to God, who IN Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us, spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved, and among those who are perishing.  To one, a fragrance from death to death, to the other, a fragrance from life to life.  Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as [wo]men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, we speak IN Christ....such is the confidence we have towards God -- not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be minsters of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

I want to be this life-giving fragrance and aroma to my unbelieving friends and family and co-workers.  I want to smell of kindness, love, sincerity, hope, faith, peace, joy and freedom.  I want to smell of patience, and truth, and generosity.  I want to smell of confidence, because Fear is stinky.  I want to smell of worship, because idolatry is putrid.  I want to smell of trustworthiness, because deceit makes us sniff trouble.  I want to smell of unconditional Love, because selfishness is like trash that needed to be taken out yesterday.  I want to BE the aroma of Christ.  Did not Mary anoint Jesus at Bethany, with a pound of expensive healing ointment, and anoint it on Jesus's feet?  The whole house smelled of the perfume, John says.  The disciplines could only think of the cost and the waste of this perfume.  But, Jesus smells a beautiful fragrance of love, and sees not a drop of waste in her action at all.

What does this mean for us?  How in the world, do we like Mary, pour out our best - our most cherished perfume - on others?  I've been thinking lately about how it isn't a waste to invest in the pouring out of our best perfume and not hoarding it for ourselves.  Imagine if someone bought you the most expensive perfume from some exotic place off the island of Tahiti, and you cherished it for yourself, enjoyed it, used it with moderation, etc., but always kept it a secret from others, and NEVER shared it.  But, then you realized that all of those little samples weren't cutting it in your outreach and evangelism, in terms of being the Aroma of Christ?  They just weren't 'rubbing off' on those friends and family you want to see come to Christ in the way you expected.  Should we not then open up our exotic perfume, and pour it out with complete freedom and joy, knowing that not only does the Lord see our faith, love, and sacrifice, but that He will reward us for pouring out our best to others?

You see, the thing is, the smell of life isn't of us. The aroma we spray and wear every day is of Jesus himself.  I'm sure the disciplines wondered if the Tomb would have a horrific smell after three days when Jesus emerged from his grave.  But, Jesus smelled of life, and freedom, and everlasting joy.  And, somehow, in the triumphal procession of our daily lives, we are spreading this incredible fragrance EVERYWHERE - on the bus, on the metro, in our office, across the bus-stop, by the beach, across the dirt roads of Africa.  Not only to fellow believers, but to those who are literally perishing, and rotting away in their sin, and despair and pride.  Would we not think it silly if someone wore a scent called Walking Dead? :)  Of course!  But, the fragrance of life would always smell best/better than the one of death.  And, wearing that fragrance, we act sincere, committed to the Gospel and His Kingdom, and in the sight of God, we speak in Christ, with confidence.  Our sufficiency to be evangelists - to co-workers, our children, your husbands, your friends - is rooted in God.  And, to seal it all off, we have been given His resurrection power in the Spirit!  

Why do I say all of these things?  Because for some time now, I've sensed God's Spirit prompting me for action and emptying of self-protection.  I never in my life seasons have been surrounded by so many dear and new friends who don't yet know Jesus, that I want to see come to Christ in this lifetime, that are seeking/questioning/searching. I ache for them, I cry for them, I pray for them.  It's the dear friend I've known for 5+ years who sees the hypocrisy and the limit of the law, but doesn't yet want to embrace Grace in Christ, because he knows he'll have to leave behind so many cultural paradigms.  The girl I've just been introduced to through another friend who is asking questions about how to become a Christian and join Redeemer, that comes from a broken Jewish family.  My yoga instructor who is spiritual, but accepts all religions, but grew up in a charismatic church that turned her off to the Gospel as a young girl in the Mid-west.  My friends out West who are searching for answers in their marriage.  My co-worker whose wife is a Catholic believer, but he isn't, and he is yearning for a deeper faith and genuine relationship with God.  My other friend who is exploring Christianity with her Christian boyfriend, but whose parents will ostracize her from her own family if she converts to Christianity from being a Muslim.  

The list goes on and on.  I must admit, I feel a daily battle in my soul as I wake up and fight for what I believe on the streets of DC and in the corners of my office. Situations have arose in the past several months where my faith and belief in Christ has not only been questioned, but where I have also been disappointed in my own "dullness" to provide sound, clear, articulate answers in the very moment of questioning.  Or, where I have felt the scent of the world drawing ME towards itself, yearning for me to come find out what aromas I haven't yet smelled that I might be missing out on.  And, yet, I am yearning for this aroma of Christ to be so sweet - so attractive - so alluring - so memorable to these friends, that they keep coming back to smell more of the goodness and glory of God...not because of my own words or actions or evangelism, but because I am allowing Christ to fill the room of my heart with His fragrance, and allowing it to seep out into my countenance, actions, words, smile, kindness, listening ear, compassion, and example at large every day.

I'm sure you all have people in your own life like this too, and I want you to know that I am praying for you in all of your spheres of ministry and work - please feel free to share, and I will gladly pray!   I am so desperate, ladies.  I feel such a weakness these days to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to these people.  I know that everyone is hurting somewhere deep down, and perhaps it's that raw faint stench of fear and pain and loss and sorrow and insecurity that we must "triumph" over with our fragrance of life and healing and love.  If you think of it, please pray for me as well.  I am truly learning what it means to believe what I believe, but also to remember that God alone is the Redeemer, the Healer, the One who saves and opens hearts.  Please pray that I will be ready, that I will be patient, and that I will be surrendered to God's plan for these friends' lives.  Let us not grow weary of doing good, either, for at the proper time we will truly reap a HARVEST, IF we do not give up!

Blessings to you all this Easter Sunday - 

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