Allergies aside, the human nose is a pretty spectacular tool. It humidifies inhaled air. It prevents large particles from entering the lungs. And of course, it smells.
Some smells pass through the nose like a sweet perfume. Some smells have the ability to transport us to another time and place—like Grandma’s kitchen.
Some smells are headache inducers. I always take a wide berth around Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle—the cacophony of smells can quickly make me regret my super smeller.
And some smells have the ability to turn up noses and maybe turn us a little green. The stinkiness of these smells generally indicates some kind of problem that needs addressed.
Sometimes those sour smells are readily identifiable—garbage rot, skunk spray, the stomach bug.
Others take a little more sleuthing.
I’ve had moments where I know the fridge stinks, but I just can’t pinpoint the source. Or the times I searched for a smell only to find a missing sippy cup full of curdled milk pushed far back into the dark abyss under the couch.
There are lots of products on the market made for mystery odors. But pulling out a fragrant air spray or said Yankee Candle doesn’t do much besides mask the stench. The best way to get rid of lingering stink is to find the root of the problem and then determine a course of action. For the random fridge smell, it’s best to pull out the rotting leftovers and then treat the odor. For a forgotten milk-filled sippy cup, it takes emptying the offensive contents and then washing the cup.
And this brings me to Holy Week and the Easter celebration of the Christian faith.
Really? How do bad smells relate to Easter? I’m so glad you asked!
Easter, in all of its glory, encompasses the eradication of the stench of sin in a believer’s life. The risen savior does so much more than send up a puff of Hawaiian Sunset or Lavender Rain. The risen savior overcomes the grave and tears the veil! In the risen savior, sin and death lose.
I remember when I started to comprehend the importance of the cross. I was a student at Tabor College, and I went with a group of friends to the movie theater to see Mel Gibson’s “The Passion.” The horrendous brutality was difficult for me to watch. Even so, I remember thinking, “I did that. My sin did that to Jesus.”
It was a painful, but necessary, realization.
Sin’s stench is offensive to the Lord, and it also has a ripple effect to those around us. It damages and destroys, and we don’t get to control the consequences.
A.W. Tozer, who has long since departed this world, still has it right. He said: “God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hated the polio that would take the life of the child.” Sure, polio has since lost its potency. But other illnesses have taken rise. Just fill in the blank.
Sin is stinky. Sin leads to death. But Jesus, on that wondrous cross, gets to the root of the problem. He pulls out the rotten and replaces with life:
“Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” (Matthew 28: 5-7)
Admittedly, there was a time in my life that I would have brushed off the implications of Easter. Shrugging, I would have thought, “I’ve turned my life over. No need to dwell here. No need to keep pressing into my shortcomings.”
How wrong I was. To avoid my shortcomings—to mask the smell by appearance, word or deed—is to take a can of air freshener and spray.
I have come to realize life is more enjoyable when I don’t mask my odor. Bit by bit, the Lord opens my eyes to my sin and its danger. To places I stumble. To places I fall. To places I slide down into a pit. Oh, to glory in my obvious lack, that the power of Christ may rest on me!
I’m finding great joy and great hope in repentance and the deep rooting that comes from submitting to a risen Lord.
As we move forward from the 2017 Easter season, may we encourage each other to take out the trash, for Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
Malinda Just has been writing her monthly column for the Free Press since 2008. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.