How could the same scent attract one person and repulse the other? I had not yet entertained such a question. As I dressed that morning, little did I know the part my favorite fragrance would play in determining my life partner. It was my first day on the job as professor in a private college. We had not yet met, but my office was across the hall from his and others had taken care to inform me that my teaching cohort was a single professor and seminarian. Based on their descriptions, I formed a mental photo of this suave gentleman and was most curious to meet him, although the thought of marriage was far from my mind at the time. As I walked through the hallway toward my office, I heard someone call my name. I turned; and there he was, not looking at all like I expected. A little shorter. A little balder. His eyes danced a greeting equivalent to his big smile and extended hand. At once, he introduced himself and asked me if I would go to dinner with him that night so we could get acquainted. Before I had a chance to respond, he verbalized a request that I not wear the fragrance emitting from my person as the very smell of it made him sick.
A great war broke out in my mind. My perfume was expensive and I liked the smell about me when I wore it. How could he not like it? Obviously I had to make an instant decision. Convincing myself that I needed to get acquainted with my fellow staff member, I accepted the invitation and promised not to wear the cologne. At dinner that night, he thanked me for responding graciously to his request and said he thought a good bath was the best perfume anyone could wear. He also let me know he would not want the woman he married to wear any fragrance. Less than three months later, he proposed marriage to me and I accepted. Giving up my favorite fragrance seemed like a small sacrifice to be his wife. I found I didn’t even miss wearing it.
Years had passed when one day I remembered how much I missed the taste of the Brussels sprouts my mother used to cook. Guests were coming for dinner and I decided to prepare the delectable treat. My husband arrived home while the sprouts were cooking and immediately demanded that I identify the putrid smell that was permeating the house. He simply could not take the pungent odor even for the short time it took the dish to cook. “Get them out of the house,” he insisted. I considered arguing, refusing, or appealing, but decided a joyful evening was more important than serving the veggie dish. I carried the Brussels sprouts outside, pan and all, and buried them in the snow. Back inside, I hurriedly put some cinnamon in the oven to absorb the smell. Yes, of course, I chaffed a bit at the thought of not enjoying this tasty dish, but I rejoiced that I had a happy husband to entertain our visitors. Buried in the snow, the smell was completely gone. The next day, I scraped them into the garbage and cleaned my pan. In retrospect, I wonder why I didn’t eat them since they were well preserved in the snow!
This was not a one-sided problem we experienced over food likes and dislikes. He liked sardines and I gagged and choked at the thought of their smell. My husband graciously agreed to eat them only in my absence.
A simple yet major principle illustrated from these experiences in our life is that different people respond differently to the same smell. In each scenario, one of us liked the fragrance and one of us didn’t. Believe it or not, these responses also hold true in spiritual matters. The same gospel message brings the fragrance of life to the believer and the fragrance of death to those who reject it.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
The Apostle Paul, who wrote the above scripture, was in tune with the culture and politics of his day and often refers to public events in his epistles using them as analogies to communicate spiritual truths. He explains to the Corinthian believers how they are a fragrance liked by some and hated by others. It is the same message with opposite responses.
An eternal fragrance
We are all putting forth an odor from our life. Is it a sweet fragrance that gives forth the love of Christ? Or is it a putrid smell revealing death? If our life has been hidden with God in Christ Jesus, we are a new creation full of the fragrance of Christ. We are a precious trophy carried by our conqueror, Jesus Christ, for all to see. He conquered us, then freed us. Now the Lord has put up His banner over us symbolizing His love for us. Those who desire life will love the fragrance. Those who despise the Lord will command us to take our banner out and bury it in the snow so they can’t see or smell it to remind them of how much they dislike it. No worry. He washed us as white as that snow. They can’t make us rid ourselves of the fragrance of Jesus in our life; we have everything to win! We will allow the fragrance of our Christian life to be smelled by all regardless of their reaction. It’s an eternal fragrance. One day, when their final battle is fought in life, those who rejected the gospel will wish they wore His fragrance. Meanwhile, we will be rejoicing in our triumphal entry into heaven with our Savior. Ah, the fragrance of victory.
Am I willing to forego my petty likes and dislikes in order to be successful in the critical relationships of my life?
Heavenly Father, In all my relationships grant my desire to be an aroma of life. In Jesus’ name, I pray.
(c) C. Yvonne Karl – firstname.lastname@example.org
From C. Yvonne Karl, Brussels Sprouts in the Snow, Chapter 5, by Brentwood Press, 2003
Published by UPCI in The Vision, November 29, 2009