Have you noticed the abundance of anti-stinking going on in our world? From underarms to kitty litter, we are barraged with odors to avoid. Then we are hit with the latest manly colognes, sexy perfumes, and plug-in air fresheners. At least one major auto-maker gives scientists big bucks just to manufacture new car smells.
What does your small group smell like? A warm plate of cookies and cinnamon spice latte? Or the locker room after the big game?
Some odors give people headaches or much more violent reactions. Evidently, I’m seriously allergic to the vapors from some kind of hand lotion they sell in Japan. When a contract worker wore it to work after lunch one day, I began to choke and my eyes were red and watering as I asked her about the smell. She gladly washed it off! And some wonderful smells such as baby powder remind me of my daughter as an infant. My wife still loves receiving roses and magnolia blossoms.
This may sound like trivial stuff, but God gave us five senses and we learn through each one. Those who study such things say that aromas and scents aid in memory recall. They say that unlike the other senses, the smell of learning or an experience at an event goes deep into our subconscious. Just the smell of it can trigger a strong memory. Because of extensive time spent receiving chemotherapy, my wife still gets nauseated when smelling betadine, an orange fluid used to clean the skin. She associates the smell with the after-effects that soon followed.
In the Old Testament, the Sacrificial System required good-smelling offerings. “Every morning and evening they burn to the LORD burnt offerings and fragrant incense” (2 Chronicles 13:11 NASB). It was probably from that positive experience that Paul told the Corinthians “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15 ESV).
Some religions invest a great deal in olfactory experiences; burning incense and other fragrances as acts of worship. I can still remember the pungent odor of a Buddhist temple in Thailand and the wood and cow butter burning at a riverside Hindu cremation in Trinidad & Tobago. What odors do you associate with following Jesus? Lighting candles? Church kitchens at potluck after-church dinners?
What smells would you associate with Bible stories? Burlap with Job? Barn smells around the manger at Christmas? Or just the way that your meeting place always had a pleasant smell about it?
As one commercial warns, don’t go “nose-blind” to the place people experience the Lord on a regular basis. And I would add to be intentionally “nose-seeing” to match the Bible story or truth being conveyed as the Holy Spirit leads.
For further learning:
Rachel S. Herz, “Odor-associative Learning and Emotion: Effects on Perception and Behavior,” Chemical Senses Vol. 30 No. suppl 1, Oxford University Press 2005, http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/suppl_1/i250.full
Allison Marin, “Making Sense of Scents: Smell and the Brain,” Society of Neuroscience, January 27, 2015, Brainfacts, http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-thinking-behaving/senses-and-perception/articles/2015/making-sense-of-scents-smell-and-the-brain/
And just for fun…
Sherri Daley, “That New Car Smell,” Car and Driver Magazine, Nov. 2003, http://www.caranddriver.com/features/secrets-of-that-new-car-smell