Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the sanctity of scent

(I recently posted this on another blog, but wanted to share it here.)

When we first moved into the trailer, I remember that one thing stood head and shoulders above the rest when it came to adding difficulty to the adjustment. The ants?A little annoying. The small space? A bit frustrating. The heat? Somewhat aggravating.

The smell? Completely disheartening. It almost put me in tears several times, and not because it was making my eyes water.

I am learning that there is something sacred about smell. It makes sense even when one looks at it scripturally. God refers to Israel's actions and heart as either a pleasing aroma or a stench to him. Disobedience is literally compared to an offensive smell! And indeed, there is something about smell that touches us in a deep place. Ask a missionary what was hard about adjusting to a new place, and more often than not, you will hear about the odor. Observe a mourning family member with their nose buried in the clothing of the lost loved one, holding on to the scent. Watch the way that a particular smell can bring back memories so vividly that one will laugh out loud or melt into tears.

The rising spring temperatures are beginning to bring out the smells that winter had subdued in our home. Walking into the trailer, we are often stunned to feel our senses offended by a foul stench. More than that, we walk out of the trailer knowing that our clothes smell the same way. It is a little awkward. And I can see it on all of our faces: it is disheartening.

In our society, we make quick judgements based on how someone smells. We go so far as to think of someone as lazy, uneducated, or worthless when they walk in smelling badly. Yet here I am, well-adjusted, a leader in many settings, with an almost-completed master's degree, and I smell the same as those among whom I live. It is such a tangible--and uncomfortable--part of living in solidarity. Sometimes I want to just escape it, to run away and live somewhere where my clothes will smell sweet. Yet I realize how shallow that is in the end. Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for him. Period.

Let us be a people, a group of Christ-followers, who give a second thought to our assumptions about those whose odor offends our senses. Perhaps they have a spouse who smokes, and will not quit despite their pleading. Perhaps they work a job that would make most of us cringe, just because they are committed to feeding their families. Perhaps economic circumstances have forced them into housing that, no matter how clean they themselves are, will forever carry the scent of careless previous tenants.

Ultimately, we must face this: the judgment we hand out is a far greater stench to God than anything or anyone that may cross our paths today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now I'm blue collar, but I don't wear a collared shirt. My sniffer gets plugged with concrete dust but still the building we are tearing apart has a noticable 'aroma' to it, probably somewhat similar to an old trailer that has had a few water leaks over the years. Looking forward to another post soon. Hope you are well friend.