“What is that smell?,” I asked as we picked up our 6-year old Pekingese from Grandma’s house recently. Because the odor resembled burning rubber, my dear mother replied, “Maybe there was an issue with the vacuum belt. It has given us trouble before.” Uh, no. Isaiah had in-fact had one of those dreaded “skunk encounters.” Fortunately, it was not a direct hit so my husband and I were able to tolerate the aroma for the duration of our 75-minute drive home….well almost.
With windows rolled down and a lengthy debate over how our furry child could have possibly been hit, we proceeded to stop at the grocery story to pick up a few needed items; Dawn dishwashing soap and tomato juice to be exact. As I was checking out, the clerks began commenting on a strange odor. The first said, “Something smells like burnt rubber,” and the second quickly chimed in, “It smells like skunk to me!” My stomach sank, but I had to laugh and then of course tell them that our dog had just being sprayed. Completely unaware, his aroma had rubbed-off on me.
A few days later, the music of one of my favorite (B.C.) Artists kept playing over and over in my head. I eventually dug out the CD’s and listened once more to her incredible gift. She was and is one of the most artistic and thought-provoking Singer-Songwriters that I have ever heard; yet the more I listened, the more sad and uneasy I became.
With a 100 items on my “to do” list, I stayed busy as the music played. But, once I slowed down and focused on her words, I realized what was impacting my mood. The lyrics were without hope and held a distorted worldview in when it came to Jesus. If there were references to God or Christ, they came as doubt-filled, rebellious undertones or words of blatant discontent with God. Despite my spiritual maturity, her attitude had subtly rubbed-off on me to the point where my joy was being drowned out by her faithless lyrics and sorrow-filled melodies. Why did I even open that can of worms, you ask? Good question. No good reason other than I had enjoyed her music for so long, I thought it would be harmless to listen again. Harmless.
These two experiences provided such a valuable reminder when it comes to influences, not to mention who we are as influencers: We absorb what we are exposed to in ways that we cannot always see. Who and what we hang around matters. Who we are, matters. No wonder Jesus (Mark 9:42-50) and Paul (Romans 14:13-23) warned us not to do anything that will cause another person to stumble. If we grumble enough, gossip enough, doubt, have a toxic attitude, etc., around those who we are in relationship with, our example or aroma can subtly become theirs and vice versa. For Christ followers, the value of our influence should never be taken for granted especially while the world around us is continually sending out the message, “anything goes.” I admit, this seems like a rather daunting charge, yet all who understand God’s grace, know that it is by His Spirit that our steps are guided.
God also created this amazing thing called “fellowship” where Christians can act as iron (or sharpeners) in each other’s lives. If we have a bad attitude, speaking God’s truth over each other’s skunk-ed-ness, praying, lovingly suggesting a spiritual shower or to simply turn off the bad music that is playing, is truly medicine for the heart. This amazing transformative stuff that happens on the inside is what shows up on the outside, causing us to be pleasing aromas to God and those around us. Just think how anger on the inside shows up on the outside, or how discontentment on the inside shows up in your shopping cart?
I don’t know about you, but when I leave a room I certainly want the smell that lingers-the words that I deposit into hearts and minds-to be sweet; ones that strengthen lives, not weaken them.
“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).