Each time I travel to the third world, a smell permeates the atmosphere. It’s different. It’s pungent. And sometimes it’s oppressive. It’s the first alteration you recognize and it’s the last thing to which you say, “Goodbye.” I have spoke to some people about this aroma and a good majority don’t like it; they find it repulsive.
But I find it like home.
To my missionary heart, that smell is full of peace and rest and goodness. And I only feel those things when I am far away from home. Of course, I have experienced these attitudes in the United States; God provides them in himself. But it’s different when I am away.
It’s not so much the smell that I adore; it’s the things it implies. When I breathe it in, I’m near people I find most beautiful. I’m embracing God’s plan for my life. I’m serving where my heart is at home. Peace is tangible. Rest is inevitable. And when I experience the fullness of His goodness, my joy is complete, bubbling up from places unknown. I feel God holding me tight, as if he were whispering, “We’ve made it to the Promise Land again.” And I so love having him so close.
And, oh, there is nothing – nothing – like encountering these things.
This smell – dirty, sweaty, and homey – is the smell of Christ at work. It’s that fragrant offering and sacrifice rising to the nostrils of God. It’s the cologne of my life. And I humbly believe that God adores it too.
And this is why I cried. This is why I clutched my dirty t-shirt and held it close to my face. This is why I breathed in deep after landing in Lima.
I love this smell, because I love these people. They make my life rich and satisfying, abounding in joy and hope and peace through God. I’m so thankful that He is good to me. He’s walking me down this path called life, and nothing could be better.
I wish that smell could always stay with me.
But it can’t – yet.
And that’s why I breathe it in so deep when I’ve got it.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1, 2 ESV