It was the last few hours in the woods before we headed back to reality. After a full day of playing beside the creek, cooking over a fire, and getting dirtier than one should, we were all a little weary. Not to mention we had slept on the hard ground the night before…in a tent.
I try not to complain too much as I know these times of family camping feed my man’s soul more than anything else. He meets with Jesus in nature, away from comforts and phones and people. He cherishes the memories made with the kids and cultivates great conversations around a campfire. I am learning to be thankful in all circumstances (ha!)
We had already broken-down camp, taken 5 trips each up a steep hill to load everything but the kitchen sink back into the car, and were headed on a small “walk” up the riverbed to a place we took the kids when they were little.
Hiking is not my favorite thing, but I was rather enjoying jumping from rock to rock up this river. Having a 2 and 4-year-old to drag into these situations is not ideal, but I was mentally thanking the Lord that the babies could walk, were not inside my stomach, and were not screaming. I have hiked pregnant, with babies attached on my torso, and had a few whine and complain the entire time.
The family nickname for me is “Pokey-Mom” and you can tell by that badge of honor that I am slow. In my own defense, I am usually the one with the littles, who have little legs, but I also enjoy the journey and really have no desire to be in a hurry.
We had crossed the small river several times as we winded up the path and were currently in a small canyon with walls of rocks and dirt drop-offs on both sides. Directly ahead the river made a hard-left turn creating a wall in front of us. We were in an enclosed ravine of sorts when the smell hit me.
I had sensed it coming for several minutes. It was faint at first, the closer to the bend in the river we came, the more obnoxious the smell grew. There had been cows that invaded our campsite the day before, so I was thinking maybe it was more manure, but with the intensity of the smell, this place would have been designated as a dumpsite for farmers. We are talking overwhelming putrid.
It was so intense that I began to feel queasy and nauseous. About that time, Mr. Speedy Gonzales, whom I named Josiah, came running from way up ahead to inform us to watch out for the dead animal that was laying in the riverbed.
And sure enough, there it was in all it’s disgusting glory, a dead and decaying sheep that was creating such an odor that it took your breath away, affecting everyone within a very large radius. It was unbelievable how the smell was so strong that I could physically sense it’s presence.
At the moment, all I wanted to do was to hide my nose, to breathe in something that I perceive as pleasant smelling. I tried to hide my face inside my shirt, hold my nose, and even walk a little faster to escape the smell.
Eventually, we made it to the desired destination, and the dead sheep was left there to decay and bother the next person who would pass it by.
The experience got me thinking, stuck with me, and a few days later when I was reading Ephesians 5, the Lord made a connection in my heart.
Ephesians 5, verse 2 says, “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
A fragrant offering; the complete opposite of that dead and decaying animal on that river.
A fragrant offering; exactly what I want my life to be.
Thinking about a pleasant aroma, in an earthly sense, reminds me of inhaling sweet perfume, baking cookies for the kids, and lighting that candle that I have been trying to savor for months. These are all experiences that create a pleasant feeling, something I want to linger in, not run from.
Then I remembered another scripture that talks about how people who follow Jesus can be perceived as either a pleasant aroma or a pungent odor. So, I went looking for this scripture and I found it in 2 Corinthians 2.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
Being a pleasing aroma of Christ is what we, as followers of Jesus, are called to be.
Sweet and pleasant is how some people perceive our lives; they are encouraged by our truthful words and enjoy our presence.
Others, who have rejected God, see the offerings of our lives as that dead sheep; an annoying odor that just won’t leave them alone.
The key point, in my opinion, to this passage is in verse 15 where it says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ…” Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate pleasing atonement to God. As Christ works in our lives, because of His presence, our lives too can be a pleasing aroma, not only to the world around us but to God. That is powerful and helps us to focus on the One we are trying to please.
Sharing the Gospel of Jesus with others is not always easy, especially when it is not well received, but it is something we are called to do.
Just remember the next time you are rejected or turned away because of the Gospel, that in the Heavenly realm, the one that will never fade, you are becoming a sweet aroma to God.