“But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14
It’s Tuesday, and the fragrance of India is in my hair. Though I wash it daily with scents of flowers and vanilla, the fragrance is inescapable. It is the hint of cardamom, of dal and rice and a special family recipe for okra prepared just-so, and of chai poured carefully in tiny porcelain cups. It reminds me of steamy afternoons with the children at House of Grace, and of the day I spent cautiously noshing on butter naan as an unwelcome virus threatened to take me and my team away from ministry. It didn’t win.
It is here now, welcoming me to Mizoram as I spend time with the children of Gan Sabra HIV Home. I wonder if the fragrance will surround us as we dance on broken tile floors in the school-become-home for the outcasts made whole because Jesus claims them as His own and regards them beautiful. Perhaps the fragrance is His reminder to me of my own beauty found in alabaster broken and poured out to symbolize all that salvation encompasses – life and death and joy and pain and hope against hope that the Kingdom of Heaven dwells among us in this life and doesn’t simply wait until the next.
In India, the fragrance does its beautiful work.
“Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.” 2 Corinthians 2:15
In Kenya, the fragrance is of warm chapati and hugs on crowded slum roads and dairy cows offering milk to hungry students. In Guatemala, it is coffee at sunrise and diesel and the burning of the fields so new crops will grow. In Romania, it is the joy around a community well and mici served at a family meal and the sugar that crisps and browns around Kürtőskalács on a chilly day.
In every country I’ve visited, the fragrances are perfume of community, of healing, of restoration, of grace, of welcome. In every country, the fragrances cling like prayers. In every country, Heaven offers its reminder.
I pray now that there’s a fragrance of welcome in the country of my birth, in the place I call home, in my life. And I pray it is more than manufactured flowers and vanillas. I pray it smells like life lived fully, and arms open wide. I pray Heaven dwells.
“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” ~Frederick Buechner
What would our fragrance be, friends? And what would it tell others? Would it point to life? Would it point to hope? I’d love to know your thoughts…