Smelly Stuff

I’m a huge fan of smells.

They say that our sense of smell is one of the deepest reaching senses that we have when it comes to forging and recalling memories. I grew up in a little town in Florida called Land O’ Lakes — nope, not like the butter (that’s in WI). It’s a super quaint little town, which is very much in contrast to the big cities in which I now dwell. But one thing that sets this place apart is the amount of orange groves. Now, I know it’s kinda hard for you non-Florida people to imagine what an orange grove is like, but think of a forest… like, not a HUGE one, but a pretty big one at that. Like, maybe the size of a posh, suburban neighborhood. Now picture that every single tree in that forest is covered in oranges.

…That’s my childhood.

I spent so much of my childhood making little tree forts from the fallen branches of those trees, imagining that I was invincible, surrounded by my own little impenetrable citrus kingdom, inhabited by citrus peasants. Many summers were spent exploring and playing and indulging in countless boyhood shenanigans. And the oranges… You think you know good oranges? You have no idea. Pretty sure I’m spoiled for life.

But y’see, that’s when I was a kid. Since then, there’s been countless neighborhoods, housing projects, businesses, and emptied plots of land that were deemed to be more important than these wonderful orange groves. If you drive through Land O’ Lakes, FL, you’d be lucky to even find one orange grove. Sounds pretty depressing, doesn't it?

The thing about oranges though, is that when the buds are blooming and they’re about to be somehow transformed into delicious balls of fruity goodness, they give off this smell. That amazing smell. More than any branch fort, injury, good time, or memorable shenanigan, that smell is what I remember from that time in my life. And the beautiful thing about that is that whenever I do pass by that rare orange tree that someone’s got planted in their front yard, it takes me right back. It’s as if those concrete buildings had never invaded the land, and those cities of citrus were alive and well once again. That smell supersedes even visual memories in a way that stimulates vivid emotion, making me to recall the joys, sorrows, questions, and qualms that were facing adolescent Aaron.

There’s not many things that distinguishes a person more than an amazing fragrance. There’s something entrancing about a quality cologne or perfume… it emphasizes a certain characteristic of elegance and sophistication if a person has the interest and know-how to really find a great scent. And as one who simply gets to enjoy the intricacies of this interest, it just makes you feel good to smell something so pungent and wonderful when you get a whiff of it. But the best part is when you begin to associate that smell to the person wearing it.

It almost sounds like spidey-senses or something, but you can almost sense that person coming into a room before they even get there because of the hint traces of their smell that fills your nostrils. I’ve got multiple people in my life that this applies to, and it throws me off so much when I smell somebody wearing that scent that’s not them! Just like with the smell of orange blossoms, I have a deeply rooted memory of who they are because of the scent that I associate with them.

Now, think about this. We’ve been talking about physical smells — things that only our noses are perceptive to, and only our wallets can supply. What if we applied this to the “smells” of our character?

…Okay, what the heck does that mean? 

Y’know that person in your life who’s just the nicest person ever? Like, even if their dog just died and their car exploded and they just got a horrible haircut… they’d still invite you over for lunch, take care of you, be incessantly kind, and compliment the mess outta you? If you don’t know the kind of person, you either need to find one of them or become them, cause they’re simply amazing people to know. But, the point is, their life reeks of kindness. When you think of that person, whether they’re in the room or not, you know that they “smell” like kindness. When you go out into the world and smell someone with that similar “smell” of kindness, it makes you think of that person who originally “wore it.”

My grandma (Hey, Gram!) wears the fragrances of kindness, gentleness, and generosity like nobody else I know. She loves when it’s inconvenient, she cares for people when they’re at their worst, not their best, and stays calm when it’s fully her right to be angry or brash. It’s my hope that by knowing and being around her, just maybe, some of that scent might rub off on me. 

These “smells”, AKA character traits, aren’t bought either — they’re practiced and acquired through the trials of discipline. 

It’s always amusing to me when people pray for more patience, but when they’re faced with an opportunity to practice patience, they complain about not having more of it. I’ve found that more than often, God doesn’t just give me something… He supplies me the opportunities to stretch myself in that area, and as the result, I gain what I was looking for though the hardship of learning and growing. Is there a certain “smell” that you’ve been asking for, but haven’t been putting in the practice to see to fruition?

Here’s the funny thing though: Good “smells” aren’t the only kind.

Just as before, I’m sure you’ve got that one friend who’s just extremely negative and cynical and degrading to the people around them. Like, there’s definitely a reason for it and you still love em, but you just know that the “smell” that they have is one that you definitely don't wanna have. Similar to influence, there’s no such thing as a neutral smell. Whether it’s just the smell of the body wash that you use, where you’d have to be very close to even smell it… or the full barrage of Axe that pre-pubescent boys lather themselves up with and can be smelled from a mile away, you’ve always got a smell. Even if you think that, “Well, I showered and am clean”, you’ve still got the very minor scents from your house, your laundry detergent, sweat, body odor, etc. that are still there.

It’s such a hopeful situation though, if you’re not “smelling” so well, physical or emotionally — it’s a pretty simple thing to change the way you smell. However, it’s not easy. Just as one must shower every day to “reset the smells” that one contains, we must practice renewing our character “smells” daily by looking to the One who made us. Jesus reminds us in His Word of the things that we’re meant to be practicing. We see these “fruits” / “smells” as the result of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. When you’re aware of how you’re made to smell, you’ll be much quicker to notice and change the not-so-nice smells that you might already have on you. 

BIG IDEA: What is the “smell” you wear that people around you recognize?

I pray that in this day, the Holy Spirit refreshes you in ways that you don’t even yet realize you need. He’s infinitely good and immensely available to make us whole, in even the most minuscule of ways. I hope that you’ll be real with yourself, and really delve into the “smells” in your life that might not be so Jesus-like. I also hope that you have friends in your life who will acknowledge and compliment the wonderful “smells” that you’ve already practiced to attain. To love God and love people must be our goal, and having a lovely “smell”, given by the nature of the Holy Spirit makes that mission so much easier. You’re awesome, friend. Thanks for being you, and don’t stop doing “you” things, just because not every single person on earth is a fan of it. There’s always room for improvement with Jesus, but there’s also freedom to be content with being the very creations that we are. I hope you feel encouraged and challenged, and that you’ll have an wonderful day. Keep moving forward, friends.