Based on the title, I bet you think this is going to be something on the whole Jenner sex change thing. Well…to be honest the whole story makes me sick to my stomach and sad. I feel helpless in that battle and desperate to defend my own sex, but my own sex sort of bashed what makes woman wonderful by getting caught up on making women equal. So that battle is lost. No, I wanted to focus on something different and encouraging to remind us that the “old normal” can be enough for us to deal with without needing a “new normal” to have to wrap our minds around.
I was at church on Sunday and went to go greet one of my friends. As I drew in for a hug an offensive smell of nasty old perfume hit my nostrils, it was a smell I didn’t catch until it was too late. It doesn’t matter if you are a “hugger” or not, we all know what it is to hug someone and all a sudden you have their smell in your nose for the whole day. I make a conscious effort to smell good most days. I remember sitting at a luncheon (of some wonderful lovely ladies who I am sure read this blog!) and one of the women around the table made mention that someone smelled good. I had some bath and body lotion on, so I said; “Oh, it might be me! I have some lotion on” to which the kind wonderful good humored lady said; “Oh no Katie, I don’t think it is you. No offense, but this smells expensive!” From that day I made a bit more of an effort to smell “expensive” too. I also recall coming home last year and one of my favorite things to do when waiting in the airport is to go to those duty free shops and smell all the expensive (on a whole new level) perfumes. I recall thinking on this one particular trip home that I wanted a bouquet of wonderful aromas to hit my nieces nose when she saw me for the first time in almost a year. I remember thinking when I was little how important smell was towards knowing and understanding people. Mrs. Neighbor; she smelled soft and light a lot like her personality. Then there was a teachers aid that always smelled of winter fresh gum, which fit because she was fresh and young too. My cousin smelled of CoolWater perfume which was cool, because she was and is cool. My grandmother smelled of Elizabeth Arden’s “Red Door” and my mom smelled of cinnamon gum and soft lotions while my father smelled of Old English or Old Spice. I wanted Junie to smell something exotic, fresh and fun so that when she saw her aunt she would associate those smells with me.
So now that you understand the importance of smell to my senses, let me return to the earlier story. Needless to say, I smelled “expensive” on Sunday, until I was hugged by the earlier mentioned person. It is interesting to think of the engagement our senses have in something as simple as a hug. When you hug someone who smells soft it is like being wrapped in a warm blanket that just came out of the dryer and smells clean and fresh. When you hug someone that smells like Winterfresh gum you suddenly feel rejuvenated and like maybe you need a piece of gum too. When you hug someone with fresh, floral scents, an imagery of floating flowers ascending and streamers of bright colors floating from the warm embrace fill your mind. A bit cheesy; yes! But, when you hug someone with stinky perfume that counteracts with your “expensive” perfume and lingers with you all day, that just stinks; literally! No pun intended.
So I tried to wrap my mind around what this scent bore with it, and I found a lesson. I realized that sometimes we don’t like certain smells but we bear with them. A diaper for example; I remember my friend jokingly telling me once that “God knew I needed cute kids” because they can be such little stinkers sometimes, but there is a level of truth in that. What happens when we take away the cuteness and we take away the beauty and all we are left with is a big pile of stink? I think that is what my true scent would be. It makes sense why churches use incense. I was told it was to help us transcend and understand that we enter into a holy space, I think in all reality it also has to do with a masking of all the stinky perfumes that you smell around you, and all the bad b.o. that people bring with them into the church. So we continue with an age old tradition of masking the smell and stench of our sin. We cover it up and call it “the new normal,” “expensive” or “fresh.” when if you take it away, all we are left with is a bunch of sinners seeking acceptance from our brother as opposed to our God.
I recall my father doing a reoccurring advent devotion for the high school youth on how Christ in the flesh is significant for us because it means he is intimately connected and understanding of what it means to be human. He knows what it means to wake up with morning breath, to smell and feel like you need a shower at the end of the day, to feel trapped inside a body that doesn’t quite feel right. He also knows what it means to smell of heaven, to be holy, to not just be covered with a smell, but to be wrapped in it and exuding that smell. I often wonder what hugging Jesus might have been like. Would it have been like hugging someone who smelled of sweat, earth, and garlic, or perhaps there was a bit more to who he was as a human. A smell that transcends scent and not only embraces you, but also offends you because you are confronted with your own sin. You are confronted with something that reminds you that you really don’t smell so “expensive” and your neighbor doesn’t really smell of “old nasty perfume.” You are reminded of your need to bathe, and your inability to wash that nasty scent away. Christ calls us to sit among sinners and to even hug them in a way so as their scent messes our own up and makes us uncomfortable. We are to love our neighbor that much, because Christ loved us that much. I can’t say that I am always good about that, understanding, or embracing of that truth. But I am thankful that on account of Christ’s sacrifice, we obtain a sweet aroma pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. We don’t need a “new normal.” We have the age old Holy One of Israel who covers us and makes us clean even when we thought we had come to Church in our Sunday best.
2 Corinthians 2:15-17New King James Version (NKJV)
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, as so many,[a] peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.