The Smell of Love

lily in full bloom

How does this Easter smell to you? I am writing this as the smells from Easter dinner still fill my home, with leftover potatoes and ham, tart apples, and cool hard-boiled eggs of many colors. Outside the air seems to tempt me with whisps of spring’s freshness mingling with winter’s dry air, as some of the bitterbrush in my yard look dry and dead and others are beginning to show some green. How do you smell Easter’s gifts of new life, forgiveness, promises and hope?

In C.S. Lewis’s book, “The Last Battle,” there is a scene near the end of the book where Lucy and the others are close to being fully with Aslan the lion in his country, a metaphor for Jesus and the Kingdom, feeling like Easter’s good news to me. At this point in the book, they are passing some dwarfs who are in the same place they are, but the dwarfs refuse to acknowledge the goodness of it all. This is part of their exchange:

“Are you blind?” said Tirian.

“Ain’t we all blind in the dark”’ said Diggle.

“But it isn’t dark, you poor stupid Dwarfs,” said Lucy. “Can’t you see? Look up! Look round! Can’t you see the sky and the trees and the flowers? Can’t you see me?”

“How in the name of all Humbug can I see what ain’t there? And how can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch darkness?”

“But I can see you,” said Lucy. “I’ll prove I can see you. You’ve got a pipe in your mouth.”

“Anyone that knows the smell of baccy could tell that,” said Diggle.

“Oh the poor things! This is dreadful,” said Lucy. Then she had an idea. She stooped and picked some wild violets. “Listen, Dwarf,” she said, “Even if your eyes are wrong, perhaps your nose is all right: can you smell that.” She leaned across and held the fresh, damp flowers to Diggle’s ugly nose. But she had to jump back quickly in order to avoid a blow from his hard little fist.

“None of that!” he shouted. “How dare you! What do you mean by shoving a lot of filthy stable-litter in my face?”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, copyright 1956, pg. 144-145.

That story continues, but I think the scene might speak to us. How do we smell the resurrection and the hope it brings? Could we experience Easter and still be missing something without our noses? There is a smell I am missing this Easter, and that is the smell of the Easter lily. We do not have one this year. Last year it seems we found one of the last Easter lily plants at the local grocery store, and I remember being surprised that they were hard to locate though I did find one. This year my home does not have an Easter lily at all, and I am missing its presence as these days of Easter continue.

When I was small, my church sanctuary felt exceptionally large and seemed magnificent to me with ruby red carpet and dark wooden pews and a beautiful stained-glass window behind the huge cross in front, just behind the alter. Jesus was in the stained glass with his hands outstretched, wearing robes and barefoot and looking kind. I do not remember a particular smell about worship there, but I do distinctly remember the scent on Easter Sundays. Our sanctuary would be lined with what seemed like hundreds of Easter lily plants, overflowing in the windows and the stone arches on the aisles, lining the full length of the two upper balconies and the entire front communion rail, brightening the carved lecturn and serious pulpit, and with blooms bursting forth where else I cannot be sure! But even as the bright white flowers made a grand and lovely impression, their powerful perfume filled me with each breath and left a greater mark. It seemed as though every breath I took of their heavy sweetness was a reminder that Jesus was alive! That the hope and promise of life in Him were real! The Holy Spirit seemed to fly on the very thickness of the air in our worship.

I never have since attended a congregation where there were so many Easter lilies present. Spring flowers including the lilies, yes. Enough that I would remember, and never a lack so that I wanted one for my own home. But the pandemic is changing things. Even as I set up for worship in my home for Easter again this year, with my family near me, and singing Easter hymns I love with my congregation through the virtual worship, it did not smell right. There was no hint of the lily’s perfume, even as my congregation’s worship included some images of Easter lilies in the background. However, I noticed that when I close my eyes and inhale, I really can smell them! My body remembers and brings the scent back to mind with all the hope and promise of Easter!

How do we smell new life, forgiveness, promises, and hope? Maybe this is a wondering that will continue to guide me in these days of Easter, as we meet the season again this year. I may need to walk closer to the sagebrush and bitterbrush in my yard to smell them waking, or I may need to close my eyes and breathe as I remember the scent of incense and fire smoke and Easter Vigil prayers at PLTS years ago and brought home to me virtually this year, or I may need to pause to closely notice if there is some moist scent of my own and others’ tears as I accompany those who are grieving and healing from deep wounds and loss that sometimes cause them to question their faith. How might you also be curious and smell God’s love this Easter?

My hope is that we are not like C.S. Lewis’s dwarfs! We Christians walk in the world with eyes to see and ears to hear and our noses to smell God’s love and goodness and promises. If it feels right to you, see if you can allow your nose to lead you this Easter season to find even more hope and life as we follow our Risen Lord!

Let us pray...

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for Easter lilies and springtime air and new life.  Help us to trust our noses to guide our hearts even closer to you in this world, that we might share your love.  Alleluia! Amen.
Kelly Loy, LAMFT, LPC, NCC, MDiv, RN

Kelly Loy, LAMFT, LPC, NCC, MDiv, RN

ELCA Pastor and NWIM Synod Minister of Wellness
Shared Path Counseling, Boise ID & Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran, Boise ID

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