I noticed her nostrils flaring. Her eyes were starting to water and it was clear she was in some distress, but I didn’t care.
[One hour earlier…]
A restaurant in town makes the most delicious roasted Brussels sprouts. The thing is they cost $10. TEN BUCKS! Who in their right mind would pay ten dollars for a dozen delicious sprouts? Me. I would pay that and more – because they’re *that* stinkin’ good.
However, I am not a crazy person. I justify the extravagance by only eating half the sprouts at the restaurant and taking the rest home for lunch the next day.
[Um, is this story going anywhere…?]
Yes, God-willing. But first, an important detail must be properly noted: Texas is a very hot place in the summer. And when the outside temps soar into triple digits, the inside of a parked car can rival the heat of the blazing furnace King Nebuchadnezzar prepared to incinerate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
[ALL THAT SAID…]
Not too long ago I ordered ‘the usual’ and packed up six precious Brussels, per my perfectly normal-person routine. Unfortunately, on this particular day, I had several errands to run post-sprouts.
First stop was the bank. Not wanting to leave my precious cargo in the broiling car, I tucked the little box of leftovers in my tote and wafted into the lobby. After a few moments in line, I noticed the Branch Manager frantically emptying a whole can of Febreeze throughout the premises as if his life depended on it.
Onward to Target. Have you ever stood in a Target aisle next to a person who has leftover roasted Brussels sprouts hidden in her purse? No? It’s not a treat. For once you might not shush your precocious four-year-old when she loudly announces to the aforementioned person, and all Target shoppers within a five-aisle radius, “Whoever smelt it dealt it!”
And finally Walgreens! Can you imagine for a moment a poor young Pharmacist fighting back his gag reflex while a customer tries to explain, again, “Oh! Ha! That smell you smell? I had Brussels Sprouts for lunch! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Here’s the point: I was not going to leave my Brussels sprouts in the car.
I didn’t care how badly they smelled, or how many people thought I had medical-grade flatulence, or if kids held their freckled noses and pointed at me. No, nothing could persuade me to abandon my mission of reheated sprouts the next day. If I was going in, then they were coming with me.
And so it goes (no easy segue here folks). It’s human nature to guard – to cling to and refuse to give up – a thing we dearly want, even if it leaves a foul smell in the midst of those around us.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts are very good things, but I can assure you from experience, that there is a certain time and place for them to be presented in the world, and that time and place is never the public library.
The people who inhabit the kingdom of God are those who are willing to leave the precious things they carry; the things that, if inordinately loved and protected above all else, will begin to render the whole room foul.
When I clutch my own social justice, I will smell foul. When I cling to my own wisdom, guard my own rightness, grip my own way at all times, and in all places, I will smell foul. And when the temperature rises, I’ll safeguard what matters to me most, distress the others around me, and really won’t care at all.
But the people who live in the kingdom of God are called to be a different kind of fragrance – fresh and hopeful – in the world he loves. And we do this by regularly examining our attitudes, actions, and comforts for the inordinate loves we refuse to give up when the temperatures rise.
Jesus invites us to give up death-clutching our possessions and passions and take on the pleasing aroma of our Father’s generosity.
Jesus invites us to release our death-grip on our favorite grievances and grudges and take on the sweet-smelling fragrance of our Brother’s forgiveness.
And so with fear and trembling, we leave our inordinate loves (idols) to die, and put on the grace of the Holy Spirit, given in great love by Christ, for the blessing and hope of the world.
Peace (and sprouts if you’re lucky) to you and yours today.
For your life is a fragrant and beautiful part of God’s ever-living and redolent bouquet; heaven’s shalom, in your corner of his kingdom on earth.