Recently, I wrote about the smell of Noah’s ark in the church. When people are in close contact and go through hot spots, things can turn sour and rotten as quick as you can say “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But there is another smell in the ark too, a sweet fragrance, a pleasing aroma.
June is one of my favorite months where I live, even though the rains have gone and the grass has turned brown. The dirt is dry and dusty and coats the green leaves on the trees, making them look tired. But when the night comes and the darkness hides the flowers, I step out the front gate and catch a wonderful scent from the thick hedge by the street. I often stop in my tracks, entranced. Visitors do the same and wonder out loud where the smell is coming from.
There are several vines growing on our wall but the scent is from the delicate lavender blossoms of the plumbago. It blooms most of the year but the fragrance only seems to come in the early summer, in the coolness of the night.
I wish there was a way you could smell this picture. But although we’re now able to digitize music and pictures and send them around the world in a flash, there’s no way of digitizing smell. The more I think about it, fragrance is a tenuous thing. It doesn’t travel well at all. To smell the plumbago you have to be right there.
I had a similar experience when I was in the States in March. This time I was walking down a lane in the Virginian hills one morning when an intoxicating smell arrested me. I looked around but I couldn’t see where it was coming from. There were no flowers nearby, just a few bare trees and bushes. I actually sniffed around trying to find it. At breakfast, someone told me the scent came from the unassuming wood honeysuckle bush I had passed by. It looked pretty dead without the leaves but the small flowers were just beginning to bloom.
There are people like this bush. Every time I’m near them, I catch what Paul calls ‘the aroma of Christ’–the sweet fragrance that comes from being filled with God’s grace and love. It is always a joy to see them. Being in their presence is like being bathed in perfume. They take delight in other people and in life itself. Their love has a strength and a tenderness. They have a deep communion with God that carries into their speech and actions. They are wise. They are generous. They are great servants of others. They are humble.
They embody Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
They spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. [II Corinthians 2:14]. This fragrant knowledge isn’t head knowledge [though these kind of people are usually very knowledgeable about spiritual matters.] It is a deeper heart knowledge of the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. [Philippians 3:10]
That’s how these people have become fragrant. They have stayed attached to the vine in hard times and have experienced life and death, great suffering and great joy. They ‘know’ what Jesus went through.
U and D are two of these fragrant people. You won’t hear about them on the news. They aren’t the kind to seek out fifteen minutes of fame. They live quiet, peaceful lives. They come alongside broken people and help them put their lives back together. How they will be missed here by the people who had the privilege to know them. Their leaving makes this place poorer.