He smelled so clean and fresh as I lifted him out of the bathtub. I nestled my nose into his chubby little neck and placed a big, juicy kiss on him. He squealed with joy and slowly wrestled out of my arms to run down the hall naked. These moments are some of my favorite with my grandkids.
This encounter with my grandson brings me back to special experiences with my own kids. How quickly, warm-hearted memories flood my heart. My two youngest daughters took baths together on a regular basis. One time when I walked into the bathroom, the tub was overflowing with bubble gum scented bubble bath. I could barely see their little brown-haired heads encircled in pink and blue bubbles. They giggled with delight and the room was filled with the scent of bubble gum.
Often our strongest memories are linked to our sense of smell. Here’s why; we use our olfactory sense all the time when we take in streams of air through our nose. We have about 5-7 million olfactory receptors that bind aroma to a nerve. The nerve then sends a message to the brain where the odors are interpreted as, “naked baby memories” and “giggling-girl, bubble gum bath-time”.
I encourage you to take time and think about some of your favorite smells. What do you associate with these scents? Do you remember the first time you smelled them?
So much of our story is connected to our sense of smell. I bet some of your most vivid childhood memories are connected to a smell, odor, scent, whiff, aroma or fragrance. The distinct smell of a bonfire, the aroma of fresh cut grass, the odor of dad’s gym bag or the fragrance of lilac bushes; each a unique scent and grounded in a specific memory.
Not all smells are pleasurable or enjoyable. The cologne an old boyfriend wore the day he broke up with you brings sadness. The smell of leather seats trigger feelings of guilt because your mother died a few years ago. She had leather seats in her 2004 Volvo and there we multiple things you wish you would have shared with her.
Whether the aromas are delightful or painful, God gave you your senses as a way to connect with Him and the world around you. And sometimes, we take our senses for granted.
Let’s fully embrace this gift because God thought it was essential for us to be able to smell, along with the other four senses (sight, hearing, touching and tasting).
In their book, Awaken Your Senses, Exercises for Exploring The Wonder of God, the authors suggests some ways to intentionally connect to your sense of smell. If you would like to connect with the stories of your past, here are some prompts to get you started. We would love to hear about your observations and experiences.
· List 4-5 people from your past that significantly impacted you. Write down significant “smells” associated with each of these individuals: spaghetti dinner, diesel fuel or the newspaper. How did this person influence you? Remember how they helped create your story. What emotions do you feel as you reminisce?
· Now list some of your favorite places to be or visit: the beach, Uncle Joe’s house or the Library. What did these places smell like? What did those smells mean to you? How did or do these places shape you?
· Last but not least, recall some of your favorite things you’ve done over your lifetime—events that have been formative to you or treasured experiences: a week of church camp, picking peaches, mission trip or running a marathon. What smells come to mind as you think of these experiences? How have these events formed who you are?
Smells help us remember our stories and unite us to our past. Our stories are full of life, experiences, and God. It is helpful to recognize God’s involvement in our past, which helps us to fully live in the present.
God is in the midst of our lives, all the time, even if we aren’t paying attention or we are unable to see Him at work in our life. Using our eyes to notice God’s involvement in our life is imperative to a joy-filled life. To find out more on about how to be awake with your eyes, read this.
Paying attention, on purpose, with our ability to hear, draws us closer and into a deeper relationship with God. Check in with your God-given senses to live fully alive in Him.