family life, spiritual life

Scent of summer

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” — Martin Luther, German minister

Last night, right as the sun gave way to twilight, my husband and I walked the dog. Early morning and dusk being the only times of the day it has been cool enough to do such a thing for the last week or so.

Perhaps it was the sponge-drippy air. Perhaps it was our other senses making up for what the darkness was taking away in terms of sight. But, the scent of the honeysuckle that pervades our neighborhood was beyond intense. In a good way.

Good, because, for me, honeysuckle is the smell of the beach.

When I was a little girl, we lived in California, where my family had close friends in Laguna Beach. Whenever we would visit, we would inevitably take the short walk from their mission-style cottage to the ocean. Just before the sea came into view, our path took us by a large hedge of honeysuckle.

Honeysuckle smell. First glimpse of beach. Honeysuckle. Beach. Honeysuckle. Beach. That pattern was repeated for several years, to the point that, now, I immediately conjure up an image of bright blue sea and a feeling of friendship and vacation joy whenever I smell that unmistakable smell.

My husband claims a similar experience. The smell of chestnut trees in flower makes him think of his grandparents, who had that species in their yard. Other people swear baking bread or a certain perfume can elicit a memory that seems almost tangible in its strength.

I’ve thought about this link between scent and memory over the years. In at least three places in the Bible’s book of Revelation, the text says the prayers of believers manifest as incense in heaven’s throne room.

Incense. Imagine that. Is it possible that our prayers have actual scent that reminds God of us the same way earthly fragrances trigger our minds? If so, what do we “smell” like to God? I hope my prayers smell like something that makes God as happy as the honeysuckle/beach sequence makes me.


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