Back in 2012 we had one last family vacation with our five Children. We picked a perfect spot for this time. A friend from college in the ministry had a home in the U.P. just 20 minutes from the bridge on US 2; the road that skirts Lake Michigan. It was beautiful and idyllic; a log cabin nestled back in the woods with a beautiful running creek dancing in the sunlight just 30 feet from the back door. Our daughter, Emilee, was the only one married at the time, and while we certainly desired her husband Matt to be with us, his absence allowed our nuclear family; just the seven of us, to be together for the week as we had been on so many family vacations.
But one of the most melancholy moments of my life occurred on that vacation. We had the cabin through Sunday but on Saturday afternoon all the kids wanted to head back to Livonia because they all wanted to go to church at Berean. That blessed my heart. So, around 3 or 4 PM, they all took off. That left me and Michal alone in the place that just a moment before had been a buzz. It was during this moment that I realized that Michal and I were entering into a stage of life I call “last times”.
There will indeed be a last time for everything in life. There will be a last time I will preach…a last time to kiss Michal…and a last time to enjoy the fall season I love so much. Well, this vacation was in all likely hood, the last time Michal and I would have a vacation time with just our five children. While there have been since then and doubtless will be family get togethers in the future they will be without one of us or would include spouses and grandchildren. This has turned out to be delightful in itself but that last vacation with just the seven of us was special to me. It was a week of creating memories that Michal and I will cherish the rest of our lives.
In my melancholy, I came across 2 Cor. 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” When you think of a pleasing aroma, of what do you think? A favorite meal being prepared by mom? A sweet smell of lilacs in the spring? Freshly mowed grass? A favorite perfume or cologne? All of us have favorite smells often evoking strong memories and pleasant moments. These fragrances are welcomed returns to times and experiences we enjoy embracing anew. They draw us. Conversely, an offensive and odious smell repels us. We flee from it and attempt to rid ourselves of its presence.
As believers, we bear a fragrance. It is the “fragrance of the knowledge of him”. Our lives are to “smell like Christ”. We are to bear the odor of his grace, his kindness, his holiness, and his wisdom. Paul and his companions spread this fragrance of Christ everywhere they went. Now, he goes on in the passage to admit that to those who are perishing (the unsaved who reject Christ) “it is the fragrance of death unto death”. But among those of us “being saved” it is the fragrance of “life unto life”. One way or the other, the gospel smells. To those who reject, it is a smell of death. It is an offensive smell like a rotting carcass of an animal by the side of the road. Thus, they flee from it. But to those being saved, it is the most wonderful aroma we can imagine and we are drawn to it. But, one way or another, a believer that bears the testimony of Christ smells! He smells offensive to those perishing. But he smells aromatic to those being saved.
The worst thing we can do as believers (in terms of this passage) is to mask our fragrance with the cheap perfume of worldliness, lack of distinction, and neutrality. In choosing to make sure we do not “stink” to those who are perishing, we end up becoming a stench in the nostrils of God. I don’t know about you but if I’m going to be an offensive smell to someone, let me be a fragrance of death unto death to those who are perishing rather than offensive to God. May God make us a fragrance of life to life as we “spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere”
That “last time” back in 2012 remains as a sweet fragrance that jogs my memories. I think it was a sweet fragrance unto the Lord for it included seven people, children of God, loving and caring for each other as a family and enjoying one last family vacation. How grateful I am that my children are a “fragrance of life unto life”. How grateful I am for the lingering reminders of days like that, that brings courage and joy to me heart. May our families always be a sweet fragrance for Christ.