One of the interesting discoveries I made a couple of years ago is the fact that our sense of smell is located in the same area of our brain as our long term memory. That is why when we smell certain odors we may be instantly transported back to something in our past.
• For instance, when I smell Rubbing Alcohol, I am immediately reminded of being taken to a huge clinic where children were lined up and given shots. There is a certain smell associated with some plastics that reminds me of the baby dolls I played with as a child.
• The smell of salty sea air always takes me back to my childhood growing up in California.
• An outdoor evening campfire reminds me of summer vacations to Yosemite National Park or the evenings we spent singing around a campfire when we lived in the Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba.
• Rotting garbage often reminds me of driving through Porte au Prince, Haiti.
I have always been affected by scents…both good and bad, which made for an interesting revelation a few years ago.
In the summer of 2005 I moved to Hanover, Pa to pastor the Brethren In Christ church there. I had only been living in Hanover a few days when it finally registered with me that someone seemed to be cooking all the time. I started asking myself some serious questions.
• What is that wonderful smell?
• Who stays home and cooks ALL day long?
• ....Night and day, in fact.
• I would wake up in the middle of the night to the most wonderful aroma!
Finally, I mentioned it to someone who said, “Don’t you know that Hanover is the ‘snack capital of the world?’” Hanover, of course, is the home of Utz, Snyder’s of Hanover and Musselman’s. So, what I was smelling was always either potato chips or pretzels!
Well, this went on week after week until one beautiful Sunday morning when I got up, went to the front door, swung it wide open and took a deep breath…and almost gagged! For the first time since I had moved there, my world stank to high heaven! I slammed the door shut and tried to figure out what had happened!
So, I mentioned it to a neighbor. I asked her if she had smelled that wicked odor (like the most rotten sauerkraut you could possibly imagine). To which she indignantly replied, “That is the smell of money and we don’t complain about it!” What I smelled and complained about, was Gladfletter’s paper plant in Spring Grove…about 10 miles away and always distinct and over powering on humid days!)
Well, I am a “ponderer” and I spent quite a bit of time pondering the fact that, some days my world smelled like potato chips and some days my world smelled like sauerkraut, until one day the LORD started speaking to me about the subject…
Think about it!
Are there days when your life smells like potato chips and then days when your life smells like sauerkraut?
A number of years ago I spent a significant amount of time studying everything that Neil T Anderson wrote. You may know him as the author of Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker. One of his main themes was the importance of knowing and embracing our identity in Jesus Christ. Understanding that helped me with issues like fear, anxiety and insecurity.
Examples: Who I am in Christ
Because you are in Christ, every one of these statements is true of you.
• I am loved 1John 3:3
• I am accepted Ephesians 1:6
• I am a child of God John 1:12
• I am Jesus' friend John 15:14
• I am a joint heir with Jesus, sharing His inheritance with Him Romans 8:17
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, Paul says,
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
We are to be…
• A triumphal procession in Christ
• We are to be spreading everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him
• We are to be the aroma of Christ…the fragrance of life
To some, the aroma of Christ will smell like death because they are dying in their ignorance and unbelief, but to others we are to be a sweet fragrance.
Here’s a good exercise to try…
Put a “scent” to some “fruits of the spirit”
What aroma might…
• And Self-control remind us of?
Especially compared with the stench of “the fruitless deeds of darkness”
• And the Apostle Paul’s list in Ephesians 4:31 to, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Why? Why is it necessary to "GET RID OF...?" Because, obviously, one can’t live a life that reflects the love of Christ when one's life is characterized by bitterness, rage, anger and malice…IN ANY FORM.
And, have you ever noticed how aroma’s or stenches can spread to others…well they do! I have encountered a family on the streets of Mechanicsburg numerous times and every time I see them the mother is screaming at the two teenagers with language that is not repeatable. Every time I see this threesome I am appalled and I have been grieved for the teens living with this kind of verbal abuse day in and day out.
Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, we happened to be in Subway at the same time. The mother screamed at one of her children to get up there and place her order, but when she tried, the young Indian woman behind the counter could not get it quite right and so the teen quickly grew frustrated and began screaming at her in the same tone and with the same foul language as her mother.
And, since I am not one to stand by while someone else is being treated like that, I walked over and very quietly and calmly said, “You don’t need to talk to her the way your mother talks to you. She is just having a difficult time understanding you.” Oh my! At that point all three of them got in my face and began yelling at me. The two girls behind the counter were quietly rooting me on (and I think they had 911 on speed dial). I didn’t help the situation at all (except to take their primary focus off of the young woman) but mostly it was a good reminder of how our behaviors can spread either a sweet aroma or a horrific stench to those around us.
So a few questions that we can ask ourselves every day are these…
• What does my life smell like to others?
• How has the aroma of Christ permeated “my world” because of me today?
• Or did my attitudes stink today?
• Did my behavior spread an aroma or a stench?
• Did people want to evacuate my presence at any given moment?
Have you ever got just a faint smell of something unpleasant and you search long and hard to find its source so that you can eliminate it? That’s what we, as believers, should be doing daily in our own lives! Then we don’t just try to cover up the stench with some fruity odor from a can.
• We dig deep and eliminate the source!
• We get to the root of our bitterness, anger, ugliness of life and we allow the light of Christ to shine into the darkness of our heart.
• We let His love and grace to us eradicate that which is from our sinful nature so that He might live His life through us.
Walk down the aisles of any grocery store and you will see dozens of products to make EVERYTHING smell better, fresher, sweeter. When really the first place we should begin eliminating odors is in our own inner lives.
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ”… Let’s smell like it today!