Growing up, I recall our parents bellowing, “You smell like outside.” It was the remnant of the scent that proceeded us after a long stretch of playing outdoors with our friends. When I became I parent, I found myself saying the same sentiment to our daughter. Most recently, she said the words to me when I returned home from a long walk. I was tickled. Full circle moment. It’s something to consider that all she picked up on, all I formerly picked up on, all the parents picked up, that in each scenario there’d been an interaction with the outdoors, minus what may have happened or been encountered. As I reflected upon the concept of “smelling like outside,” I couldn’t help but juxtapose the words against the consideration of what we as believers will “smell like” when we return to outdoors. In other words, will the time we’ve spent with Christ while indoors amidst a pandemic be evident to the world – to the outdoors? Specifically, will the stench of the presence of God – the God who sustained us through complete and utter chaos and uncertainty be strong enough to compel others to say, “You smell like Christ!”
When Moses spent that deep and intimate time with God on Mt. Sinai, his face appeared to have a glow – such to the extent that he elected to wear a veil as he interacted with the people after returning to the camp. How do we look, speak and walk when we’ve been in the presence of the Master? Over the last 15 months, my time with God has been constant, but definitely varied. I’ve spent time worshiping and praying like never before. I’ve danced, written, sung (only to God) and journaled prayer requests, prayers answered and my gratitude. I’ve also wept sore and questioned God if this was indeed the end as we know on earth. If I didn’t smell like God was a constant presence in my life before, I certainly desire that to be different when the outdoors reopens. We’ve witnessed so much death, and concurrently so many blessings, that only our Most High God could orchestrate and balance us equally. through it all.
Exodus 34:29 affirms, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” What do we look like when we’ve been talking with God? What do we act like when we’ve been talking with God? What do we smell like when we’ve been talking with God? II Corinthians 2:15 offers this, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” That is a great responsibility to be sure, but if we are only sharing the love of Christ, He will assume the weight accordingly.
I’m not as concerned about things returning to “normal,” whatever that means. In the words of Sonya Renee Taylor, “Normal never was.” Yet I cannot help but wonder if our time indoors was to prepare us to live differently outdoors. Many of us shut in with faith already as a constant companion, while others may have been introduced to it for the first time, even though they were always a “church goer.” Others of us, lived straight up recklessly, neglecting our relationship with Christ altogether. Thank God for reconciliation that remains available to us always to get smelly once again.
I want to smell like God in being helpful and responsive to others. I want His lingering scent to be upon me as I meet strangers who need encouragement and people who stand in need of miracles and the favor that is promised in the Word with God and with (wo)man. I have been blessed to be safe indoors with my family, navigating getting on each other’s nerves and loving each other intensely; being blessed to work from home, and might I add, working more hours than I ever have on campus; enjoying an amazing group of folx daily for a zoom workout; gardening, trying new recipes and worshipping and edifying my prayer life (I even took a class on prayer y’all). I’ve been affirmed in knowing that while I certainly love going to church, I had to learn to get to Christ like never before minus the preacher, the praise team or the prayer warriors. I had to create all the pieces of that fragrance in the comfort of my home, my car, my shower, my closet. That is what builds the scent. I can’t alter smelling like outdoors when I talk long walks, but I truly hope that I smell like Christ, indoors, outdoors, in a pandemic, post pandemic and for all that is to come. That fragrance is always in odor.