The venue was a crowded 300-person auditorium with ceilings thirty feet high. I haven’t calculated the volume of air in the facility, but I know that one person was fouling the breathing function for many others. I am certain his or her sniffer lost all sensitivity to odors in the first seconds after the cologne or perfume or body splash or deodorant or whatever was painted on. Remember the Brylcreem commercials and the little dab that will do you? This person did not.
As my eyes watered and my lungs burned I wondered if I should excuse myself and break for the ample fresh air beyond the exit. I was unable to prevent the onset of an asthma attack and considered a long-term plan to further divide public seating into smoking and non-smoking, reeking and unscented.
The experience reminded me of dear old dad. We lived in a one bath house, and that bath was unvented. Dad had priority use of the facility as he prepared for work and doused himself with his morning chemicals. There was Vitalis to slick back his hair, Right Guard aerosol for his pits, a splash of Old Spice for the cheeks, and unfiltered Listerine (the kind that looks like gasoline, none of this wussified mint stuff) for the breath. Waking up was never a problem. Think of those crushable ammonia sticks used to revive fainters. One whiff of the air in our bathroom brought eyeballs to their fully opened position.
Setting snarkiness aside consider that each of us brings an aroma to life, our personal scent, wafted around for others to enjoy or endure. Shawn’s paternal grandmother, Wanda Eddy, comes to mind as an example of one who left a pleasant aroma. On our visits her conversations steered around the aches and pains of aging though she had them. Gram Wanda wanted to know about the job, church, kids, what we were learning, good books we read, and so on. Her promotion to glory left an empty spot in our lives.
As I observe people and browse social media I marvel at the digression in such graces as courtesy, respect, and especially kindness. My heart breaks when the opposing sides of a flame war both claim the name of Christ. Yes, waging war in the name of one’s religion seems to be an acceptable and wide spread practice, but have we taken time to consider what God asks of us? Paul spelled out those expectations:
… He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NLT Selected
Sweet perfume? Christ-like fragrance? Do those words apply to our personal conduct? In his recent book, Love Kindness, Dr. Barry H. Corey, president of Biola University, reminds us of our influence, good or bad.
“…people are watching us. Do they smell in us the stench of hypocrisy? Or do they smell in us the aroma of Christ?” (Love Kindness, page 134)
“The aroma of Christians is a mixed bag today. Some are giving off the fragrance of Christ, and others are giving off no fragrance at all, or actually smell like something other than Jesus and the God of the Scriptures.” (Love Kindness, page 198)
What scent do we leave behind? Do our friends and acquaintances open windows to access fresh air after our exit?
Or do they breathe deeply and think, “I miss him!”