I sat down after a long layover in D.C. Finally headed to my final destination, Durham, North Carolina. Luckily I was selected for the exit row and had a few extra inches of legroom. The man in line behind me ended up sitting next to me.
“Finally we are on our way,” he said.
“I know, it's about time. How long was your layover?” I asked him.
“About 8 hours, my flight from Seattle got in at 9 this morning,” he said exasperatedly.
“Wow, you beat me. Mine has only been 5 hours.”
This eventually lead to a conversation, which was unlike what I normally do on planes. I am far more the headphones in, book in hand, no one else exists, type of flier. But this time was different.
His name was Keith. He was an interior designer from the Seattle area. A really cool guy. We talked about what was taking us to North Carolina. I asked about his life. He liked to travel a lot so we related on that. We laughed for a while as he showed me pictures of his latest trip, where he and his partner went to Singapore, Portugal, Dubai and London all in three weeks. He really did have some incredible stories and photos. Like scuba diving with sharks in the reefs of Singapore and accidentally flipping their dune buggy in the desert outside of Dubai.
He eventually asked about my life. I told him that I was a senior at Oklahoma State, which he called a redneck state. I let it slide. (because he’s not completely wrong...)
“What do you want to do with your degree?” Keith asked.
“Well I’m actually going to work in the church,” I replied smiling.
“Oh,” he said.
Keith shut down. I attempted to probe at him, treating the subject relatively delicately.
“Do you have a faith?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
A few moments passed.
“My parents were religious. I just always thought it was ridiculous,” he said.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“It just is,” he said as he shut down even more.
Keith put his headphones in and did some work. It was striking that a simple statement about what I'm doing after college could turn a conversation with laughing and sharing stories into silence.
I read in my bible that night:
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Corinthians 2v15-16)
I saw that first hand on my flight with Keith. That just my nature of being a follower of Jesus has different reactions to different people.
To some, they will see me, and as Paul says “smell” me and it will be a pleasing aroma. One of life. That as they interact with me they will get to see God and take delight in Him as a His child.
We see this often times when we hang out with people that love the Lord. You just feel revived, and rested after a good conversation about Jesus. Ready to take on the world. Because in those they have the aroma of Christ, one of “life to life”
But others, when they smell you it won't be the scent of life, but rather you will smell bad. The same aroma that to some gives life can smell like death. As you follow Jesus, to some it will bring about conviction, and a realization that they are far from God and don't know Jesus. And you, as a follower of Jesus, remind them of that truth.
That, I think, is what happened with Keith. When he found out that I was a follower of Jesus. It brought up things that he didn't want to think about. Ways he was living his life that he knew deep down God didn't approve of nor designed. And so the same words that bring excitement when I say, “Jesus changed my life,” for some they get excited but for others, like Keith, they shut down. Because to engage in that conversation they would have to be vulnerable and honest and ask. “What does God think of me?”
Luckily, as a Christian, my commandment isn't to smell any different. I have an aroma that comes from my walking with Jesus. So I just do my thing and let the world smell what they smell.
I’ve been praying for Keith and hope that the aroma shifts from “death to death” to “life to life”.
But for now, I’m just going to keep on following Jesus and life in a way that has a pleasing aroma to the Father.
*photo from that flight