The week, thankfully, contained neither crisis nor emergency. However, it did contain an overly-generous amount of the common frustrations of daily living in an aging body and an imperfect world.
I lost (misplaced?) a number of items that I needed—none of them could be called essential, but their absence proved exceedingly annoying. I dropped my coffee cup and spilled coffee on the newly cleaned carpet. I forgot to bring in the garbage can which during the night promptly blew into my fastidious neighbor’s yard—the neighbor was not pleased. One morning I overslept my alarm and as a result greeted my first client wearing a truly splendid case of “bad hair." I packed for a trip, then picked up my suitcase without zipping it shut and spilled all my carefully folded garments on the bedroom floor. I went to the grocery store and left my list on the kitchen table. I—well, you see what I’m getting at. Literally, if recorded in detail the story of the week would exceed War and Peace in length, but the content would contain only a boring description of the tyranny of trivial trouble.
There was “no blood” as my nurse friend says; the week’s measure of trauma was certainly not life-threatening. In the long account of life events none of it merits remembering. Unwisely, however, I permitted the events to cumulate in an adult version of the frustration recounted in the children’s story about Alexander’s terrible, no-good very bad day. Alexander’s proposed solution to problem days was to move to Australia as you may remember. Fortunately, Alexander’s mother was quite wise. As she tucked Alexander into bed that night, she reminded him that in life there are days like that, even in Australia. Knowing this, nevertheless I permitted the week to leave its mark. I was not conscious that the mark showed, but it did as you will see.
On the third Saturday of the month I meet regularly with a small group of women. We share breakfast and our experiences as women of faith—our joys, our struggles, and the epiphanies God has provided. It is a rich time, a small island of communal caring and support in our busy lives. I look forward each month to our time together. Each time I find myself challenged, taught, listened to, cared about and strengthened.
This week’s meeting proceeded as I had anticipated—good food, warm friendships and the challenge of learning. We talked about the love and gentle persistence of God in faithfully seeking to shape our daily lives. We celebrated the ways in which over the last month we could see God’s concern demonstrated in the minutia of our lives, as well as in major events. We thought about the mystery of the ways in which God “inhabits the praise” of his people.
Then as we were preparing to close up shop for the month, one of the women remarked with gentle concern, “Gay, when we came this morning your face was drawn and gray and tired. Now you seem more alive somehow—you look different. What do you think that’s all about?”
I think it’s about one of the mysteries of our faith.
Somehow being in the presence of these women changes me. Hearing their stories, warmed by their faith, encouraged by their strength, I am enabled to take into myself new energy, new hope, new strength for my journey ahead.
Paul knew this phenomenon: he wrote to the Corinthian church:
But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are. . . the aroma of Christ. . . the fragrance of life. . . . 2 Cor. 2:14-16.I think these women provided "aroma therapy" for me. They carry the very DNA of God within themselves, and in their presence I caught something of the fragrance and strength of life lived in the spirit of Jesus.
But these women did more than comfort and console. They provided, so to speak, sanctified smelling salts. Into the residual fatigue and spiritual dullness that had resulted from my unwise response to a stressful week, they brought the sharp, reviving sting of a spiritual "sal volatile" that stimulated me to wake up and respond to the presence and the goodness of God in my life.
I am still thinking about that combination of tranquillizer and stimulant.
Jesus talked about salt when he talked about the impact he wanted his followers to make on the world. Today I am paraphrasing this part of my kingdom job description in this way: I am to serve as sanctified smelling salts for a spiritually dull world, but to do so in a way that carries the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of life itself.
See you next week.