“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. ” John 12:3
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
When you are born with no sense of smell, as I was, you need help. People who are blind in their eyes need a “seeing-eye dog”. People who are blind in their noses need a “smelling-nose friend”. I have always been blessed with people to help me in situations where smelling is necessary. Most of the time I enlist the help of my family members because they’re usually handy and also because they’re obligated to me because we’re related.
Just yesterday I made my sons sniff an empty litter box that I had just cleaned to see if it needed any more cleaning. I got Spencer’s girlfriend, Bethany, to sniff it, too, for good measure. (Just in case this thing gets serious, she needs to know what sort of family she is marrying into. I’m sure she’s praying that the insanity gene skips a generation.) Everybody said the freshly-cleaned litter box smelled fine. It’s good to have family when you’re blind in your nose.
But, what’s a person to do when they’re away from home without a sense of smell? Then, you have to enlist the help of a friend. And let me tell you, a friend who will sniff for you is a friend indeed.
The best “smelling-nose friend” I’ve ever had was one of my college roommates, Ray Trantham, pictured here with his wife Pam. (He is Dr. Raymond S. Trantham now and is a missionary and seminary professor in Odessa, Ukraine.) He was the best because, first of all, he had the most incredibly sensitive sniffer this world has ever known, and also because he would gladly sniff anything I asked him to sniff. (Remember, he’s a brave and rugged missionary.)
Back in our Bible college days, he sniffed leftover vegetables to see if they were tainted and new brands of bath soap to see if they smelled sissy. He smelled shirts that were worn for thirty minutes and then hung back on a hanger and laundry that had been left too long in the hamper. Once his sniffed under my armpits when I ran in after a busy day at work and was on my way out the door to talk to a pretty girl. His verdict? “Well, you smell just a tiny, tiny bit, but I have to get really, really close, and she’s not going to have her head up under your armpit—I hope!”
From my friend Ray, I learned a great deal about the nature of smells and aromas. Brother Ray always drank instant breakfast powder mixed in two-percent milk for breakfast instead of eating in the Bible college cafeteria. When I asked him why he never ate school breakfast, he said, “If you go in there, you smell like the kitchen for the rest of the day.” I was always amazed that when I came back from breakfast he could always tell what the menu of the day was by taking one sniff when I walked back in our dorm room. He would inhale once and then make a pronouncement: “Oatmeal” or “Sausage gravy”; “Bacon and Eggs” or “French toast”. Just one sniff, and he always got it right.
Now, here’s the thing that amazed me the most. He could always tell what girl had walked through the student lounge based on the aroma of perfume the young lady left behind. There was one girl at our college who always wore a perfume called Cinnabar. (I can’t imagine, but it sounds like it would smell like “Big Red” chewing gum.) When Ray and I would head to New Testament Theology class at eight in the morning, he would comment that this young lady had already gone to class because he could smell her perfume.
[A side story here: Because he liked the way the other girl smelled, Ray bought a bottle of Cinnabar for the girl he was dating, Pam Hassell, who is now his wife. She said something like, “I-think-I-can-pick-out-my-own-perfume-thank-you.” She and her missionary friends of all denominations read this column in Ukraine now. It’s quite popular there. True story.]
All foolishness aside, here’s what I learned from Ray Trantham. Fragrances travel all through the house. We see that illustrated in today’s gospel lesson (at the top of the page). Mary Magdalene had bought a jar of expensive perfume, probably worth about $800 dollars. She broke the jar open and poured the entire contents on our Lord Jesus—because nothing is too beautiful for God. St. John then makes a wonderful observation in the story: “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Simply put, we learn here some important spiritual lessons. You can’t pour perfume on someone else without getting some on yourself. And whenever we do any deed that brings glory to our Saviour Jesus, the fragrance goes all through the house.
So, don’t forget. You can’t bless others without blessing yourself. And you can’t honor the Lord without making the world more beautiful for everyone. Dear mama, live this week to spread spiritual perfume on the Lord and on all those you come in contact with, especially your little ones. Your life (and theirs) will be sweeter for it.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” *Sing that title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 18) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church” (where the Preacher is usually in charge of dumping the litter box because his handicap is handy). You should write him at email@example.com.