The power of scent is amazing to me.
To this day, I can catch a whiff of the slightly-bug-spray-esque Eternity for Men, and I am seventeen again... (sort of) dating this boy named Jonathan (for about a week). Riding in his big, ridiculous (awesome.sauce) jacked-up Dodge late at night. Don't get me wrong-- no regrets here. What I perceived to be heartbreak was actually the tender compassion of God. Last I heard, Jonathan has been married (and divorced) twice and is currently finalizing the paperwork to bring a mail-order bride home from Russia. And is still wearing Eternity for Men. So I am not sad. But I pass a man wearing this cologne, I smell it as I walk through the cosmetic department of Kohl's... and I remember.
It's tanning oil. I am laying out on the beach, my bathing suit straps pulled down so I don't have tan lines for prom. Remember?
It's Dream by the Gap. I am eighteen and achingly homesick at Fire School in Pensacola. I am wearing a lavender sweater. Remember?
It's Bounce fabric softener. I am chasing foxes on the moonlit beach with my friend Cameron. Remember?
Last night, I walked downtown with the girls, where they were having a block party and hosting an artist carving ice sculptures. Through the crushing throngs of people (and trying to keep track of three kids by myself), we saw very few ice sculptures. We did, however, manage to stop at one of the camp-fires, where the Boy Scouts were giving out free marshmallows to roast. The girls enjoyed their gooey treat, we wandered around a little more, saw some friends... headed home.
Later, after I put my little flock to bed, I turned my head and happened to get a whiff of my hair. It smelled like the boy scouts' campfire. And I was transported back to the Creation Festival, a Christian music event that I have been attending since I took up residence in my mom's belly.
I was three and roasting marshmallows on my mom's knee.
I was thirteen and had just met my future husband (but didn't know it yet).
I was sixteen, singing Indigo Girls songs while my sister played her guitar.
I was nineteen and had just smoked my first joint and lost my virginity in K-field.
(I'm kidding about that last part. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)
Regardless, even after I showered the smoke out of my hair, I found my thoughts wandering back to Creation. It was bittersweet-- as we had, after many pain-staking decisions, cut ties with the ministry last year. But still, I remembered. I think that, until the day I die, every time I smell a campfire, I will think of Creation.
As I pondered this, I was reminded of the Scripture about the fragrance of Christ:
"...thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:14,15)
... through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him...
How beautiful. How terrifying.
I can see why society is largely disdainful of Christians and their Savior.
We stink of bigotry, self-righteousness, exclusion.
But oh, how I long for this to be different! In my life, in the small circle that God has given me, I want to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. When I am old and gray and my granddaughter pauses to think of me, I want her to remember that smell. The fragrance of Him. Remember?
When the waitress at the restaurant is flustered and weeded, I want to be the one with a kind word. A smile. A generous tip. I want her to remember that smell.
When my husband has had a long day at work, and is feeling discouraged and worn-down, I want to be ready with a timely word of encouragement. A kiss. A steadfast belief in my husband. I want him to remember that smell.
When my girls are naughty and bickering and making me crazy, I want to slow down. To love them. To cuddle them. To let them be kids. I want them to remember that smell. The fragrance of Him.