Sunday, January 22, 2012

Smelling is Telling

The faintest waft is sometimes enough to induce feelings of hunger or anticipation, or to transport you back through time and space to a long-forgotten moment in your childhood. It can overwhelm you in an instant or simply tease you, creeping into your consciousness slowly and evaporating almost the moment it is detected.
Stephen Lacey, Scent in Your Garden (1991)

Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Stilly yet seriously, the snow sprinkled downward as salt from a giant shaker. Watching from the front lobby of the library where I work, the effect was magical and alluring. Aware of others' less positive sentiments towards the winter precipitation, I reined in my fascination. 

Surprisingly many patrons appreciated this weather wonder as a perfect backdrop for Popcorn Day, a friendly gesture the staff had planned for handing out free popcorn all day.  I love popcorn, as in devour-a-whole-big-green-Tupperware-bowlful on a Sunday evening kind of love. Or I-just-ate-lunch-but-I-think-I'll-have-some-popcorn now.  So I munched my way through the work day like the Hungry Caterpillar.  Actually, I consumed fewer bagfuls than you might expect, considering the tantalizing smell that hung in the air all day. Hovering over the reference desk. Wafting down the stairwells. Riding in the elevator. Clinging to my hair.  Oh, the bewitching aroma!

One day this week I made bread with the help of my kitchen friend--the breadmaker.  The heavenly scent of the freshly made staff of life followed me to bed, and the next morning I satisfied the mouth-watering longing to taste its scents-ational goodness.

Olfactory moments do transport us back to memories.  The pungent smell of a wood fire positions me on a lawn chair with family in a cooling summer night of a camping trip. Diesel fumes take me back to  strolls on city streets of Managua, Nicaragua where I spent a study-service term during college. I tenderly hold the memory of the moment I buried my widow's face in the worn suede jacket hanging in the closet, just to breathe in the familiar smell of a presence I painfully missed. 

It's as if I'm holding my infant close again whenever I catch a whiff of baby lotion.  The aroma of Brut or English Leather transports  me back to a high school sweetheart's hug.  I'm doing a small fast from coffee right now, and oh how I miss the wake-up scent of morning!

What memories do you have on the tip of your nose?

What memories or impressions are we making by the fragrance we carry? Not the cologne we're wearing, but the life we're sharing.

2 Cor. 2:14-15 says,
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Do we walk by others and leave a sweet aroma that has them wondering what we're wearing that smells so good?  Or do they hold their nose until we leave the room, because our words or actions have stunk?

Father, help me follow you as one who has given up my own selfish independence to be captured by your life of victory and triumph, someone you can use to spread the sweetness of the knowledge of you  to everyone I encounter.  Wash me daily in your word and annoint me with the oil of your Holy Spirit so I only smell of you.


  1. Beautiful post, Ruth! So many scents linked to so many memories. May our prayers and songs of praise be a sweet smelling aroma to Him. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on Saved by Grace. Your blog is a blessing and I am now following it, and I invite you to follow mine, Saved by Grace also!
    Laurie Collett

  2. Thank you for the reminder to be a pleasing aroma to God and others.

    Thanks for visiting me at A Season for Al Things. I'm your newest follower and look forward to reading more of your thoughts. ~ Ellen

  3. This brings up many scents for me. Popcorn is definitely a biggie--our elementary department at church often pops it on Wednesday nights and it makes me want to be in 3rd grade again. :-)

    Chocolate chip pie in the oven; hot rolls; even good smelling candles;...they all bring up memories.

    I want to be that kind of pleasing aroma to Christ too. I know I'm often not, so I'm thankful for his grace that covers up my stench.

    Great post. Thanks.

  4. Love the subject of this post. The power of smell always amazes me. It is a good reminder that we are the aroma of Christ to those around us and we need to always be aware of what fragrance we are giving off.

  5. Such a great reminder to be a pleasing aroma! I really should visit you more often, Ruth! Sorry for my long absence. How did that Cauliflower crust pizza turn out? I hope you have a blessed week, Ruth!

  6. Your writing reminds me of a book I read many years ago called "A Natural History of the Senses" by Diane Ackerman (sp?). It's amazing that I can still remember that title and author. It had a lasting effect on me... I think it might have been so profound because I hadn't quite begun to think about what complex science goes into our interaction with the world. I am using Apologia science curriculum with Edward and we're studying the human body from a biblical worldview. It's absolutely astonishing how I could have missed so many fingerprints of God as I studied anatomy in public schools! Just the fact that we were designed to be able to study ourselves and see some of those clues our Designer left behind makes me want to praise Him all the more! With our still small glimpse into His perfection, I can only imagine how much worship we will give Him in Heaven when (I HOPE!) He unfolds it for all to see! Thanks for reminding me of that today! Love you!


Thanks for sharing your response!