When the door swung open, the odor surged out and slammed into me. It was so raw and rank I could taste it. A laborer shadowed the doorway, his hardhat cocked back, overalls stained. ''Can I help you?,'' he asked, then asked again, because I was trying too hard not to vomit to give him an immediate answer. ''Um, yeah,'' I finally managed to mutter, ''I'm here to pick up some freight?'' It was more question than statement since I really hoped I had the wrong address. "Yep, got something for you,'' he said. We stepped inside, into a dank room, generators roaring around us, pipes running every direction I looked. ''What is this place?'' I asked, as I filled out the paperwork. ''It's a water treatment plant,'' said Mr. Overalls. ''That smell,'' I asked, ''how in the hell do you work around that all day?'' He gave me half a smile, and answered, ''Well, believe it or not, after you've been here a while, you hardly smell it anymore.'' Then he added, ''You know, Mister, you can get used to damn near any stink.'' I never thought of prophets clad in overalls, but I expect I encountered one that day. For the truth he spoke concerning the nose is equally true of the whole being of man.
Have you ever found yourself looking back on a time in your life when you were thoroughly enmeshed in something wrong, and now you hardly recognize the person you were then? I certainly do. I've been there. At the time, there was only the illicit pleasure afforded by evil. Little by little you sink into it, until, like quicksand, it swallows you whole. It permeates every aspect of who you are. Perhaps, at first, there is the smell of immorality, but it is soon overpowered by the sweet scent of passion or pleasure or power or any other of a whole host of hell's perfumes. The stink of evil remains, it never lessens or dissipates, but you cease to smell it. It becomes the new olfactory norm. If you are engrossed in something wrong long enough, you can get used to damn near any stink.
When you find yourself in this situation, the Lord almost always employs the same method to bring you back to your senses: he sends someone to tell you that you stink. A friend, family member, sometimes a complete stranger. They may be blunt, they may beat around the bush, but, however they choose to say it, they are the Spirit's mouth, breathing the aroma of truth back into your life. You'll probably hate it at first, might even hate them. For what you crave is affirmation, that faux love masquerading as friendship, the kind that tells the man in the coffin how good he's looking. But the language of love is always the language of truth. And sometimes the most loving act is to tell a friend that there is a decomposing soul within him.
But love doesn't stop there. God's love didn't stop there, and neither can those who call him Father. I've had plenty of ''friends'' who, directly or indirectly, pointed out the decomposing soul within me. And many of them then walked away, leaving me for dead. But some cared, some truly loved me, and for them I thank God.
These children of God imitated their Father. They loved me as I struggled through to acknowledge that I was solely to blame for the mess I'd made of my life. They loved me as the Lord of Easter exhumed me from my self-dug grave and breathed life back into my bones. They loved me as He bathed away my filth, anointed me with the oil of joy, and clothed me in the garments of Jesus, that I might smell like his Son, who brings with Him the aroma of life everlasting.