“How time flies!” has become quite a common phrase for me in recent weeks. In a span of a few days, I celebrated several important anniversaries in my life and remembering them and seeing the images on social media has made me nostalgic. It made me realize how quickly time has passed. It amazes me that some events that I remember as if they happened recently actually happened quite a few years ago. For example, I recently met some former middle school classmates whom I had not seen in more than thirty years. It was astonishing how we re-counted stories of the "good old days" and caught up with what had happened in our lives since the last time we had seen each other. Time goes by, but some memories last forever.
Something important about our memories is that, although most of the time we cannot remember the specific words of people, we can remember with great clarity the way we felt when we were with them. We don't remember what they said, but we do remember how they made us feel at a specific moment. We hold onto memories of a person’s character. Over time we forget many things, but we always retain a sense of the qualities and demeanor of a person with whom we spent some time.
In a way, people are like perfumes. My brothers are avid cologne enthusiasts. When I am with them, they introduce me to the new fragrances that are in fashion. There seems to be an infinity of perfumes due to the large number of ingredients and possible combinations. For this reason, each perfume is singular and unique. A characteristic of a good perfume is that its smell lingers for a long time. In the same way, each person is unique and their character is evident to everyone around them. The smell or personality of someone lingers in our memory for a long time.
As followers of Christ, it is our life that leaves its mark on others. Our character, not our words, is what people remember of our Christian witness. The apostle Paul describes this reality in 2 Corinthians 2:14 this way:
“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.”
God in his infinite grace uses us as bearers of the knowledge of Christ. The smell of Christ must be so evident in us that when others remember us, they should find themselves thinking about Christ. The word Christian means a little Christ and this is precisely what we should be. We are to others the face, feet and hands of Jesus.
Smell is a very powerful sense and one that is tied to our memory. Smells bring back recollections and help us relate events and people. In time very few will remember our words, but the smell of our character will prevail. What is your aroma? I invite you that with the help of the Holy Spirit we can smell more like Christ in all that we are and do.