Dirt. This gardener from the northeastern U.S. said her favorite smell is the smell of dirt. She’s pretty unique, with a completely different approach to gardening than mine. But, she has no choice. She’s totally blind.
I drank in every word of her interview as she talked about enjoying her garden in complete darkness, and I wasn’t surprised to hear her say how much she relies on her sense of smell. I just wasn’t expecting the smell of dirt to be her favorite. But, it’s the first smell she’s aware of after every winter’s final thaw, so I guess that’s why she cherishes it so much. It’s her signal that it’s almost time to get out and begin digging in the dirt.
That got me remembering some of my favorite smells. I was actually surprised at the ones that really stood out. Some smells were what you’d expect. You know, roses, freshly baked breads. There’s the perfume of honeysuckle spreading in a mass of tangles along the road to my dad’s horse barn. But a scent with even fonder memories is the one of the barn itself.
I love remembering the heady smells of the things that brought the barn to life. The scratchy hay bales piled high in the hayloft where we played. The dust hung so thickly in the air that it clung to our sweat and coated us in mud after a few hours of playing in the heat of the Arkansas summer.
The sweet smell of the molasses in the blend of grains making the sweet-feed we fed our animals.
The smell of the horses that stomped and whinnied when we skittered through the barn, giggling and interrupting their afternoon nap.
The manure. Yes, I even have fond memories of the smell of the manure my sister and I hauled out of each stall. Using pitchforks to fill wheelbarrows we lugged the pungent poo to a pile my dad kept behind the barn. All those smells married to create a fragrance I’d choose any day over french perfume.
The musty smell of freshly-picked cotton is another favorite. I remember it piled high like summertime drifts of snow in green metal trailers. My little sister and I played for hours in those drifts, tunneling through the fluffy mounds and building hiding places of forts and caves for cowboys and Indians. As a child, I couldn’t have told you cotton had a smell. But as an adult, a whiff of that dusty bouquet takes me back to when my greatest concern was convincing Mother to give us a few more minutes to play before time to go inside and clean up for supper.
So many beautiful smells. So many wonderful memories. But I wonder… what does God smell like?
Why shouldn’t there be a smell about Him? His Word tells us we will someday see Him, and it gives us a hint of what He looks like. If we will listen, we can hear His voice as He speaks to us. When we draw close to Him there are times we can actually feel His presence. In the Psalms we’re told that if we take refuge in Him, we can taste and see that the Lord is good.
God must have some sort of smell, because the Bible actually describes Christians as spiritual diffusers.
God leads me to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him to everyone around me. He wants me to smell like Him so others can breathe deeply of a fragrance they’ve never experienced; a fragrance they should want for themselves. But, I wonder if those around me can detect “the fragrance of the knowledge of Him,” above the stench of my self-absorbed lifestyle.
I need a good, cleansing soak in Him every day so His fragrance will come through. If I’d remember that beautiful fragrance of the knowledge of Him, I’d cherish it. I would anticipate the life-sustaining fellowship that follows it… far more than the anticipation the sightless gardener experiences with the smell of dirt and the promise it brings of each new spring.
…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. (Ephesians 5:2)