Fragrant

Now that fall is here, I am enjoying all the seasonal scents. I have made muffins and stovetop chai a few times, and although it still feels like summer beyond my front door, I have even burned candles a few times—ones with names like mulled cider and harvest spice.

Yesterday I burned my oakwood spice candle for the first time this season. It’s a cute, acorn-shaped candle that a friend gave me last fall, and after taking its lid off every morning this week to get a whiff of its sweet smell, I finally decided to light it and let its fragrance fill our home. It was absolutely delightful as it spread its cozy, autumn cheer from room to room.

Recently, I added another scent to the repertoire of fall fragrances that have graced our home these last few weeks—a twist off the traditional pumpkin spice latte that I am still trying to perfect. After making a fresh batch a few days ago, I sampled a few sips before realizing how quickly the morning was slipping away. With that being the case, I set the coffee aside and took my son on our routine morning walk. An hour or so later, we strolled through our front door and were warmly greeted by the rich smell of coffee permeating our home. It was a very pleasant surprise that makes me want to work on this recipe all the more.

Lately, I have been thinking about the role that heat plays in the scents that I’ve been enjoying so much this fall. Although the muffin batter, candles, and ground tea/coffee smell good on their own, their fragrance has only grown stronger and spread further when put to the flame, and their scent has lingered longer as a result.

As believers, we have a signature scent, and we should desire for its fragrance to grow, spread, and linger far beyond our own four walls. It is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 2.

“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.”

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

When I consider this passage and think about my most recent observations regarding scent and heat, I am left to think that perhaps we need to be put to the flame at times if we are to truly spread the fragrance of Christ.

A friend of mine has only caused me to believe this all the more. She has been standing in the fire since the beginning of this year, and she smells so much like Jesus as a result. Her name is Janet, and she is a dear lady that I know from a time that I taught ESL at a Spanish-speaking seminary. Having been the assistant to the ESL teacher the semester before I came, Janet was more than willing to help me get settled into life and work at the seminary when I arrived.

I was very grateful for her. Trying to find my place on campus that first semester was a particularly lonely experience, so I was thankful for the time that she and I spent together and for her listening ear, sympathy, and prayers. She smelled like Jesus to me even then.

Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with stage 3 liver cancer, and four months later, she was told that her body was no longer responding to chemotherapy.

I and a number of others have been praying that God will heal her, but I know it’s more for our sake than hers. I read her posts and see her pictures on social media, and she’s so full of peace and joy.

She’s ready.

Whether God chooses to heal her or take her home, she has accepted whatever may come. She is like a radiant bride awaiting her Groom, and although she would be content to continue serving Him here, she looks forward to the day when He will tenderly sweep her into His arms and carry her over the threshold of this life into the next one, where they will begin their happily ever after together. Or, perhaps better put, continue it. This time, without sorrow, pain, heartache, or grief. This is the hope that she has and the life that she eagerly awaits.

She has been afflicted and tested in so many ways this year, but all this has served to cause the fragrance of Christ within her to grow and spread. It has reached my door over 700 miles away, and there’s no doubt that it has made its way inside the homes of the seminary students in Latin America who have had the privilege of knowing her. Not only has it spread broadly, but it is also lingering in each of our homes. Whether God keeps her here a little longer or draws her to His side, the scent that she is exuding in the midst of this present valley will linger in our hearts and minds for years to come. She has already taught us so much about what it means to be a reflection of Christ in our greatest suffering and darkest moments in life, and I feel so privileged to call her a friend and to learn from her example through it all.

I continue to pray for her complete healing, but I also thank God for the valuable lessons I am learning through her during this season. Much like Mary poured perfume over Jesus’ feet1, she is pouring her life out to God as a fragrant offering to Him. And although it is meant as a gift for Him alone, so many of us have been blessed in the process.

As much as I have enjoyed all fragrances of this season, I am especially grateful that the aroma of Christ has made its way to my home through her. It’s a scent that will never grow old or stale, and through it, I am learning to hope more deeply and anticipate eternity even more. I can only pray that, when I am held to the flame, I will smell just as lovely and reflect Jesus just as well as she is.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

2 Corinthians 2:16-18

1John 12:1-8