When I was 20 and my sister Coralie was 22, we backpacked through Egypt, Sinai, Israel and Turkey. We had return tickets, two-minute noodles and a vague plan. Not a bed was booked. That month of my life ranks very highly on my List of Most Unbelievably Awesome Life Experiences Ever. Some people thought that we had had a temporary lapse in sanity, because there were bombs going off in Egypt and Israel almost every day at that time – just prior to us leaving and while we were there. We weren’t blown up; but Coral ( = gorgeous blonde) did have to wear a headscarf to avoid children stroking her otherworldly hair.
Maybe sometime I’ll blog about all the God experiences we had while we were there – the uncanny coincidences and his astounding provision for two young, stupid, awe-struck girls with hardly any money.
But today I just want to blog about the smell of spices in Jerusalem.
I often wonder at the fact that God could have left the world void of smells. We don’t really need them, after all (except for hunting prey in the dark and stuff like that). And yet he created something in the brain that responds to smells like no other sense. Just a whiff in a mall or on a beach or at a school concert can take us back in all but body to a Christmas, a kiss, or a holiday. Scents have an irresistible power to unleash unstoppable emotions. We don’t choose to remember with nostalgia or pleasure or grief when we pick up a memorable scent. We just do.
So, when I walk into Pack ‘n Spice to buy dried cranberries or cupcake holders and I’m gloriously smacked in the face with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and all things nice, I can’t help it. I’m back in the old city with its ancient stone facades and hagglers and I’m eating falafel and thrilling at the thought that just maybe Jesus walked down this alleyway a couple thousand years ago.
Perhaps that’s why Paul says we should be an aroma in this world, because that would make it impossible to ignore us. How incredible would it be if we were to walk into a room and the fragrance of us carried people straight back to the foot of the cross – perhaps gladly, perhaps kicking and screaming. They would have to admit that Jesus is for real. (Of course, you only smell like your granny who wears loads of perfume when you’ve spent time in her lap and hugged her a lot. Go figure.)
‘Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.’ – 2 Corinthians 2:15