My mother used to tell a story from her childhood about a woman she knew with a delicious perfume. To my mother, who so often struggled with feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, this woman was an angel from God. This kind lady would gather my toddling mother up in her arms and sit her on her lap where she proceeded to whisper gentle words of love and affirmation in her ear. It was the happiest place on earth for my mom as a child. At the slightest hint of that aroma through the years, my mother was instantly transported back to that place of love and safety. If you knew my mother, you would know that she placed great importance on having a signature scent. This early encounter is why. Using this angel from her childhood as a model, she desired others to have the same experience with her. She hoped that as she brushed against the lives of her loved ones, she would bestow grace and kindness, and by leaving in her wake a sweet aroma, they would be reminded of her love for them when a hint of her fragrance would waft through the air.
One summer the cutest boy at camp wore Polo. Actually I think he bathed in it, but we were too naïve to be put-off by the overpowering wave of Ralph Lauren, so instead we all made regular visits to the men’s cologne counter the following fall to capture the essence of this boy on the tester paper and put him in our backpacks!
Fragrance is powerful. It can unlock memories long forgotten, or sweep us away to another place.
In the Old Testament, God gives specific instructions to Moses regarding the incense to be used in the tabernacle:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather fragrant spices—resin droplets, mollusk shell, and galbanum—and mix these fragrant spices with pure frankincense, weighed out in equal amounts. Using the usual techniques of the incense maker, blend the spices together and sprinkle them with salt to produce a pure and holy incense. Grind some of the mixture into a very fine powder and put it in front of the Ark of the Covenant, where I will meet with you in the Tabernacle. You must treat this incense as most holy. Never use this formula to make this incense for yourselves. It is reserved for the Lord, and you must treat it as holy. Anyone who makes incense like this for personal use will be cut off from the community.” Exodus 30:34-38
God had a signature fragrance that was fiercely protected. It was reserved for God alone. Imagine for a moment what it must have been like to worship in the tabernacle. To be enveloped by the very fragrance of God, allowing the aroma to fill your senses and be absorbed by your hair and your clothing. Long after leaving God’s presence the scent would linger the way a lovers fragrance is released from your skin hours after your last embrace pulling your consciousness back to that place of wonder. As you walked the streets you would leave in your wake the aroma that marks you as one who has been drenched in the presence of God, every movement releasing the fragrance and pouring it out over thirsty souls in need of God’s touch.
We are a New Testament people. The tabernacle has been transferred from a make-shift tent in the desert to the center of our human hearts, and I believe God retains a signature fragrance and our souls are the burners of that incense. Unlike the days of the tabernacle, the sweet aroma of God’s presence does not fade. We carry it with us and pour it out over our home, our family and friends, our work and every daily encounter.
This is a season of frantic hurry and lists to check twice, yet it is the season we mark the commencement of God’s great plan to place the presence of the Holy Spirit within the soul of every person through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Let’s not forget this. Upon the grocer, the mail carrier, the driver in the next lane – upon your spouse, your children, your in-laws, your friends, your co-workers, you may, if you choose to allow it, pour out the sweet aroma of the presence of God as expressed uniquely through you.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 2 Corinthians 2:14