I was eighteen years old, thumbing through a magazine at the dentist’s office. It was time for my annual cleaning; another chore to check off before heading to college.
As I was casually flipping the pages, an insert dropped and floated lazily to the floor. Picking it up, I caught an inviting scent: warm, rich; earthy. I asked the receptionist if I could keep the insert and she obliged. I traced the words with my fingers, repeating the name: Roma Perfume by Laura Biagiotti.
Days before college began, I made my way to the mall and purchased a bottle of this Roma. I rarely bought anything extravagant, but simply knew this was my perfume. I had rubbed the sample insert to a fare-thee-well upon my wrists. It was nice to have a full bottle to spritz each morning; something I have now been doing for three decades.
Just the other day, an acquaintance who is nearly blind, smiled and told me that she knew my presence before I greeted her because of my perfume.
It has been a full week, with family and friends: cooking and feasting, laughing and watching football. After everyone had gone home, I vacuumed and dusted and cleaned the fridge before sinking into my favorite chair with a steaming mug of coffee and my Bible. The aroma reminded me of our children, who also appreciate a good mug of joe.
So I stopped and prayed for each of them, slowly. Not a snappy list, but a steady holding of their faces in my mind’s eye as I placed them one-by-one before the Lord: Thank you, God, for their precious lives. Thy will be done as they follow you. I whispered my specific requests for each, appeals from this mother’s heart. As I did so, I felt my soul soften.
I opened my Bible, savoring 2 Corinthians 2:14-16a:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
I looked out of our living room window, and watched as dying leaves slipped from their branches to the ground. The phrase triumphal procession reminded me of Noah guiding the animals and his family into that massive ark. I imagined Noah’s neighbors, a perishing people, snickering or perhaps squinting skyward at the bright blue expanse absent of rain clouds, laughing at the absurdity of this Noah-man, leading the beasts, side-by-side into an ark. The ark, perched upon dry land, with no rain in sight.
I also envisioned Noah, plodding along faithfully, ignoring the insults, exuding an aroma pleasing to his Creator; a fragrance from life to life. This was not silliness; but pure faith and obedience beautifully intertwined; understood by precious few. The work of Noah’s hands, the crafted ark, revealed what had already been reckoned in his heart. Steadfast trust.
There was only one door to this massive craft, and the Lord shut them in (Genesis 7:16). A triumphal procession, for certain. Noah carrying out his part in unquestioning obedience, and God sealing them up in perfect safety.
Last night, as a man was backing out of a parking space, he came close to hitting our truck. I quickly pressed the horn, which was loud. He braked, just avoiding a near collision. As he sped off, he thrust his hand out the window in an obscene and rather prolonged gesture.
This was an excellent opportunity to overlook an insult, something I have been working on this year. If I am to ever become wise and tender-hearted, it will be through perseverance and speedy forgiveness, I am quite sure.
Unlocking a forgiving and forbearing spirit is easier said than accomplished. Not too long ago, someone stole my idea, claiming it as their own. Just typing that sounds childish, and it was.
It was a small thing really, an uncreative measure I hatched to serve someone, and although I proposed it, another took credit, claiming that the idea was hers.
So I said nothing, and carried on with false cheerfulness, at first. But I was miffed.
I silently stewed and simmered, feeding my own irritation until the next day when my husband asked: What’s wrong?
So I told him. And as I verbalized the story, I realized what did it matter as long as the needy person was served? I was missing the entire point, and this was absurd. My attitude was not a pleasing fragrance to anyone, especially the Lord. And with that acknowledgement, the knot in my stomach dissolved. I forgave the thief, praying for God to bless her. And I meant every word.
So I spray perfume on my wrists absentmindedly each morning, part of my routine, but now with a certain and growing awareness that the fragrance most pleasing to God springs from my heart: that tender place formed and fashioned and fed by the Holy Spirit. Those quiet, unseen moments of prayer and Bible meditation, obedience and faith, forgiveness and repentance, count; big time. And they are never unseen by God. They lift, rising heavenward; a fragrant offering pleasing to Him.