The Smell of God

A friend of mine told me a bit about his spiritual journey last night.  After growing up in Africa as a missionary kid, he abandoned his faith for 23 years.  He lived a rough life of sin during that time.  But one Sunday he decided to return to church.  He picked one close to his home and just walked in.

When we entered the building, he said the “smell” of the church brought back everything to his mind and soul.  All the memories and images of his faith long removed were immediately ushered right back in.  He hadn’t heard a sermon or a song.  He hadn’t knelt at the alter or received communion.  It was the smell of the church that revived his faith.

I was a bit perplexed by this smell thing, so I asked him, “What did it smell like?”

In my mind I was thinking too literally.  Did the church smell dusty or stagnant?  Did it smell like Pinesol or Lemon Pledge?  Was it the smell of candles, flowers, or old hymn books?  What was the smell that reminded him of his past?  I know the sense of smell (olfactory) is one of the most powerful memory-keepers in the brain.  You can remember a smell longer and more vividly than a seeing a picture or touching an object.  But this was different.

“What did it smell like?” His response shocked me, “It smelled like God.”

That response was so honest and truthful that I didn’t know exactly how to respond.  Does God have a smell?  Does the presence of the Holy Spirit have a distinct aroma to those who have ran away from the Lord?  Will heaven have a scent as the dwelling place of God?

Then he further explained his experience with an even more profound statement.  He said, “I didn’t smell only with my nose, but with my whole self.  The smell enveloped me.”

I pray my life will smell like God.


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