Maybe like me, you can remember cherished smells from childhood--scents from places you've not visited in years. My grandfather's apple pie, which my husband believes to be the best apple pie he has ever tasted. My mother's continuing rotation of candles. She loves jasmine and rose.
The aroma of good food always gets my family around the table. There is something about baking muffins, Indian spices simmering in pans, or freshly peeled or sliced fruit that brings little ones into the kitchen.
When Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians that together they are "the fragrance of Christ," I marvel at his metaphor. Even though their relationships were difficult, even though their circumstances were trying, he was aware of them being part of a victorious parade of conquered warriors--drenched in the incense of defeated pride and triumphantly bested by the power of grace.
Maybe today you're thinking that you would be the fragrance of Christ, except you're heartbroken. Or you're longing for something that isn't, and may never be. Or you're sick. Or someone you love is. Or you've lost someone immeasurably precious to you. Or you've messed up. Big time. Perhaps there's a skeleton so big in your closet that you never crack the door even an inch for fear of what might come tumbling out.
If that's what you're thinking, the gospel contains better news for you than you could ever imagine. Because through the triumph of Christ, our emptiness can become abundance; our helplessness can become hope; our failures can be exchanged for forgiveness, time and time again.
Peter denied Jesus. He said (more than once) "I never knew Him." And that was right after he boasted to his Master, "I would die for you." Who could overcome such humiliation? What kind of God would accept such miserable failure? I'll tell you: A God like ours. Through the sacrificial blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our failures become acceptable, and our shame survivable. In Him, we have "forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." And His call to us at the beginning of our journey with Him is still the same in our failure and suffering: "Follow me."
From a fire in a courtyard to a fire by the seaside, Peter followed. From night till morning. From failure to forgiveness. And so can we. Because we are the fragrance of Christ. Empty, helpless, ashamed...we are the fragrance of Christ. His presence is the divine alchemy that makes a beautiful aroma of our suffering and shame, and spreads the sweet knowledge of Him in every place.
Today, may His presence create an unforgettable fragrance in you.