Yesterday morning, while having my morning coffee on the patio, my husband (who at times can’t help himself) told me that while we were on our bike ride the evening before, that he ‘smelled’ God. I lovingly smiled and said, “You did? And what did God smell like?” Without missing a beat he said, “Pine cones.” To which I replied, “pine cones huh? I thought he smelled like falling leaves.”
It was one of those moments that I will always treasure in my heart.
Hopefully, you are not thinking right now “who would have the audacity to attach a particular smell to the Creator of the Universe?” But if you are…hang with me for a moment.
Perhaps the conversation Frank and I had, was spawned as a result of the lingering thoughts we are having from our reading of “The Sacred Romance” (John Eldredge/Brent Curtis) or maybe we are just at the age, like many of our peers, when we just start thinking about the end of life more than we do about the here and now.
Any one who knows me (or if you read previous blogs) knows of my love for coffee – which, for obvious reasons, is also one of my favorite smells. However, I do have others.
I love, love, love, the smell of:
- a burning wood-fire
- the breath of a sleeping baby
- fresh rosemary sprigs
- a good glass of red wine
- Italian anything cooking
But by far, one of the best smells of all is…
- the smell of a fall day in Ohio! It truly is quite amazing!
As I settle into my new life as an empty nester, fall is beginning to smell more and more like memories to me. Good memories. Memories like my five boys hard at play in the back yard. I used to love the way their hair and skin smelled when they came inside after a big football game. It all comes back to me whenever I get even the slightest whiff of a little boy whose been out in the dirt.
It’s kind of like this verse that I recently stumbled upon:
So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed.” Gen. 27:27
Isn’t that a great verse! I never noticed it before!
Today, I want to simply propose the question:
“What does our sense of smell have to do with our view of God? Or of his heaven?”
What I am realizing (this make me know I really am getting old) is that each smell I named above correlates to particular memorable moments in my life; moments of:
- being around a summer camp fire on Lake Chautauqua, in upstate New York, when I was 10 years old singing ‘it only takes a spark to get a fire going’ and personally experiencing the warmth of God’s love for the very first time OR
- hanging out with my kids around our homemade fire-pit as we prayed together and sent off another family member AND
- earlier days as a young mom after I nursed one of my newborn babies in the early hours of the morning. Their breath always smelled to me like the ‘breath of heaven’ – incredibly pleasant and sweet – angelic like – heavenly!
- making my sweet potato/rosemary/cranberry dish I make every thanksgiving OR
- my trip to Israel back in 1996 when I learned why huge bushes of Rosemary are planted throughout the region (b/c Rosemary is the herb that has the longest lingering flavor and meant to remind its citizens that GOD will never forget them: “I will never forget you Oh Israel.” IS. 49:16)
- week-long summer visits to my grandparents where the smell of fermenting home-grown grapes penetrated through the oak barrels that lined the basement wall OR
- nights out to dinner with good friends and enjoying good conversation over a great meal AND
- people – lots of people – who we have entertained and enjoyed a Sunday pasta meal with
It’s not that I think that God smells like a certain thing in his creation – that would make him way too small. What I’m saying is this:
I believe, as does my imaginative husband, that God, Through the use of our senses, gives us clear and inviting glimpses of himself and his heaven. It’s up to us if we want to let ourselves be captivated by the generosity of his loving invitation and allow him to give us an inkling of all we have to look forward to in the life to come. The question is – do we even notice him as the generous giver or think to offer him our admiration and thanks?
Young Life’s founder, (the organization my husband and I used to work with) Jim Rayburn, coined the phrase, “It’s a sin to bore kids with the gospel.” Would you agree that the gospel story is ANYTHING BUT BORING considering the incredible-ness of what Jesus lived and accomplished on our behalf? You know, things like rejection, betrayal, humility, life-changing miracles, crucifixion, rising from the dead, conquering sin and death…ordinary stuff like that!
I would say – that the same applies to our view of heaven…that it’s a sin to bore someone with the concept of heaven – as some type of event or place that is…well…boring (Just read Revelations).
To me, fall is also beginning to smell like things I hope and long for.
…as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 1 Corinthians 2:8-10
Will our heavenly existence be limited to endless singing and flying around without the restraints of time and space and gravity? Absolutely not! What we see now is just a foreshadowing of what is yet to come. God is way too gracious and generous to give us a boring heaven! Heaven – I’m convinced will be nothing short of an extravagant display of goodness to which we have never seen the likes of! And we should be very excited about going there to enjoy it! .
Personally, I cannot imagine God’s heaven without, bon-fires (but with smoke that doesn’t make you stink or burn your eyes); or laughter and good conversations; a good full-bodied glass of vintage wine (that doesn’t make you tipsy or foolishly silly), pleasurable work that lets us use our creative talents and truly BE who God intended us to be when he created us; and I love the idea of being able to learn – to ask questions – and to receive the answer before we even finish asking the question.
So what about you? What does God smell like to you?
Before you answer…think back to your childhood…what kind of smells take you back to pleasant memories of YOUR past?
Do you think of running home from school in the fresh air after a spring rain? The smell of your high school gym and playing your heart out? Or do you think of your mother or grandmother’s perfume? Your father’s cologne?
Try to recapture it in your mind. Now hold on to that smell for a moment. Let those images – those pleasant smells become a sweet aroma to you once again. They are the gift of God to you.
Do you want to take it a step further? Grab a Bible (or go to BibleGateway.com) and do a word search on words like: aroma, smell, pleasing, purfume, oil, gladness, sweet, flowers, etc. You will be amazed at what you discover. When you get to that place where something speaks to you – stay there. Camp out there. Linger there. And let God meet you there.
So let me ask you again…What does God smell like to you? Does he smell kind? Forgiving? Gracious? Gentle? Strong? Holy? Does he smell like… Love?
May the smells that have brought you memorable joys to you in this life become an even sweeter reminder of God’s love for you and may he plant in your heart – a longing for the aroma of heaven – and use the pleasantries of this life to do so.
I think I’m going to rake some leaves today and smell some pinecones. What about you?
Until next time…