The other night we got home late after eating dinner at the home of one of my coworkers. It was well past our dog Caleb’s 6 o’clock dinner time and I was certain that he would be starving as we got home at about 10:30. He did his customary run of freedom around the couch before making his way to the kitchen where his food dish is. I scooped his nightly allotment (he’s on a diet right now) and expected to hear the sounds of doggie gratitude as he bulldozed his flat little face into the bottom of the curved bowl.
However, this night, he stared briefly at the food and didn’t touch it. He started smelling my ankles with a concerned look on his face. He then found my wife and smelled her too. His face declared that he did not care for whatever smell we had brought home with us.
It was then that we did what any normal people would. We took a fresh sniff of ourselves to figure out what was so repulsive as to prevent our dog from getting to his dinner. It was then we noticed the smell. It was on our clothes. It was in our hair. It was on our infant daughter. And it smelled a lot stranger once inside the comfort of our apartment than it had the previous 6 hours or so we had been smelling it.
You see, my coworker and her husband are Indian scientists. We had gone to dinner (actually “tea” at 4, then dinner with some homemade Bengali food!) at their house and had spent the evening talking and sharing about our lives, learning about their religious beliefs as fairly devout Hindus, getting to share with them about our belief in Christ as the only source of life we have, and leaving behind a Bible in their native language as our gift to the hosts. As devout Hindus, a large amount of incense had been burning in their upstairs prayer room and had slowly marinated us in smell over the course of our visit. While we had long forgotten the strange smells greeting us upon entry, they hitched a ride home with us and our ever-vigilant dog caught them at home.
As we continue to pray for our friends that they would read the Bible in their own language and that we would have future opportunity to repay their hospitality, I couldn’t help but think about 2 Corinthians 2- “14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life.”
As strong as the smell was that followed us home, we pray as we ate and talked with our friends last weekend that a stronger smell was left by us at their home. We pray that they, unlike our dog refusing to eat because he hated the strange smell, would find a scent of life leading to life as they encountered the aroma of Christ.