Thursday, November 27, 2014

What do you smell like?

There's a story in the Bible, in John chapter 11, about Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. He was sick, and they sent word to Jesus informing him, "the one that you love is sick." They knew that Jesus loved them all; he had been to their house before, eaten with them, and spent time with them. They hoped Jesus would come and heal him.

Sadly, Jesus did not come when they expected him to, and Lazarus died. Four days later, Jesus arrived at their home, and both Mary and Martha told him, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." The great news for them was that Jesus raised their beloved brother from the dead.

The next chapter, John 12 describes a scene in which Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, dried his feet with her hair, and then anointed them with very expensive oil.

I have read that story dozens of times in my life, but lately I've been reading the stories in Scripture while attempting to put myself right there in the scene.

I try to imagine how I would respond if that happened in my family room - Jesus came to my house. He had raised my father from the dead and all of us, Dad included, are sitting their spending the evening together. We are in the family room, talking, watching a football game (because of course Jesus loves NFL football), and in walks my sister (I don't have a sister, but for the sake of the story...).

She gets down on the floor at the feet of Jesus and begins to cry, buckets of tears. Then she lets down her long hair and begins to dry his feet with her hair, while still weeping. Then she pulls out a bottle of essential oils and pours them onto his feet. It drips onto my carpet, splashes onto the couch and family room table.

How much attention would we be paying to the Carolina Panthers game at that point?
(We probably would have turned away from the Panther's game because they would be down by 17 points early in the third quarter.)
How much would we be talking about what we had eaten?
How much would we even be talking about the wonder of my father being alive again?
We would be stunned into silence by her outpouring of tears and oil and love and gratitude.

The story says that after she was done, "the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."

When she looked up at the group around her, when she got up from the floor, when she wiped her tears, when she gathered herself and left the room, Mary undoubtedly reeked of gratitude. Her hair, her clothes, her spirit, she reeked of gratitude.

When Jesus got up and left that room, left that house, and began his walk towards the cross of Calvary, he too reeked of her gratitude and her love.

Because the floors of houses back there were dirt or stone or wood, that fragrant oil would have soaked in deep, between the stones, the wood slats, or down into the dirt. For days, perhaps weeks, that scent would have wafted through that room and throughout the house. Their home reeked of her gratitude.

The Bible also says that our prayers waft up before God's throne like fragrant incense.

All of which got me thinking - when I enter or leave a room, a house, a church service, when I interact with someone at Trader Joe's or Starbucks or Loaves and Fishes, what fragrance am I leaving behind? What do I smell like? Do I too reek of thankfulness, of love, of joy, forgiveness, and peace? Or do I smell like fear and anger and hatred and worry?

When people come into my home, get into my car, and spend time with and around me, do my house, my attitude, and my presence reek of gratitude and tenderness, acceptance and welcome?

On this day when we gather with family and friends, when we eat and tell stories, and watch football, will we each pour out our love on one another? Will we grant forgiveness to those who have hurt us and the ones we love, so that the stink of anger and hatred will dissipate? Will we be intentional in our desire to douse ourselves with gratitude and grace, kindness and gentleness before we enter into fellowship with our loved ones? Will I?

On this day when we are mindful that many have lost loved ones, many are alone, many are afraid, many are angry, many are mourning and sad, will we reach out to those that we know are hurting and share our love, our affection and our food with them? Will we allow our love and our gratitude to fill the space between us with the fragrance of community and encouragement, support and sharing?

What do you smell like today?
What do I smell like?

Happy thanksgiving!


Qurra said...

This post made me start thinking as well ~ what do we smell like? What are our true inner feelings, attitude and intentions? I'm happy that I've learnt something from the Bible ^_^ These religious texts are very interesting!

GailNHB said...

Qurra, thank you again for reading and commenting. I'm glad you are enjoying these rants of mine and even learning a little about the Bible. Religious texts are very interesting and often enlightening.

Take care of yourself.