I hate the moment when I am driving out of my garage, have turned onto the main road headed toward my busy day, and realize I forgot to put deodorant on. If I am not reminded by my mental checklist of morning to-dos, I am quickly reminded a few hours later when I get a whiff of my underarms. My first response is always, “Darn it, not again.” My second response is to quickly think of all the people I have interacted with that day and hope they haven’t smelled me. My third thought is to plan a strategic way to make sure no one else realizes I forgot to freshen up in the morning—it usually consists of making sure I hug everyone like a T-Rex. I just extend my arms slightly so that I still seem friendly but don’t engulf my friend in the full smell of B.O. Big smile, little arms.
Smells are aromatic. Good or bad. Sometimes I put on my Bath and Body Works lotion and people stop me in stores to ask why I smell so good. Other times, I use candles to make my home feel warm or familiar. And sometimes I can’t take credit for my appealing scent at all like the way my clothes smell after a bonfire. Even when a few days have passed, my clothes will still carry the scent of burning wood and good conversation. There are also smells that permeate in a bad way. Public bathrooms are places I try to avoid at all costs. Sometimes, I’ll hurry through Target like a maniac rather than stop in the restroom that smells like the unflushed disaster of someone who must have had explosive diarrhea because that’s the only explanation for the awfulness.
Smells evoke powerful responses, which is why Paul uses them to describe our influence on the lives of others.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. (2 Cor. 2: 15, 16).
God has placed us in the lives of others to be an aroma to them. To some we will exude sweet and satisfying smells; we will smell like life and Christ’s glory to them. To others we will smell like a public restroom. We will represent the dim lighting and dirtiness in their lives that will repulse them. Yet, we are purposed to spread the aroma of the gospel of Christ and we must avoid the temptation to adjust our smell based on our audience. I often feel the temptation to reek a little less of Jesus in certain environments, but censoring faith from my conversation is like a battery operated candle—which we all know are cheaters. Instead, we emit love, compassion, peace, and hope to those who need it most. We stink up the place with our crazy love for the broken and the hurting. We introduce the scents of joy and grace to many who only know punishment by the law.
I am so thankful that God wafts us throughout the lives of people to be the aromas of Christ. Even when I am walking through a day unprotected by the science of deodorant, I am still a pleasing aroma to God. May I be like an air freshener of Christ’s salvation to those I encounter daily…and remember to put on deodorant.