Barbershop Theology, Pt. 4: “The Nose Knows”

Do you smell that?  I can.

There are certain types of floor polish that smell just like my old elementary school in Apache, Oklahoma.  On rare occasions I will walk into a building to the perfect combinations of soaps, cleaners and mop bucket — boom! Ahhhhh, there it is—the long hallway that takes me down to Mrs. Alexander’s fourth grade classroom. A thousand images flood my mind when I get a certain whiff of my youth.

I’m surprised we could smell anything at all back in the sixties. Everybody smoked. Part of my job as the barber shop shoe shine boy was emptying ash trays. Let’s just say, I emptied them a lot. These days I nearly gag whenever anyone within a quarter-mile lights up a cigarette.

I can smell my memories.   I think that’s why I’m always looking for a barber shop that smells right.  If I walked into something like Spring-Fresh-Potpourri I would turn around and leave. Surely there’s a man law about this: There shall be no potpourri in a barber shop. So what makes a barber shop smell right?  Jeris Hair Tonic, Butch Wax and clipper oil—these contribute basic components to real barber shop smell.

On Fridays, several customers would make their way in from the Sale Barn where cattle had been auctioned. The Angus, Herefords and multi-various bulls, cows and calves were fond of leaving green souvenirs which the men’s boots would inevitably pick up. The barber shop took on even more character when the farmers and ranchers came to town. Smells good don’t it?

Don’t ask me why I love some of the aromas of my youth so much. My best answer will be nostalgia, sentimentality, or perhaps a coping mechanism which works to suppress my neurosis.  Saddle soap, leather dye and cowboys boots dipped in a cow lot—man if somebody would bottle that I’d wear it as cologne!

I suppose if you are from New York City or Paris you can speak to the aroma of a fine wine that opens with a mild cherry bouquet finishes with a hint of the vineyards in Pinot Noir.  But what I understand is a show-pig powdered with Johnson & Johnson talc and complimented by an sprinkling of saw dust.  Get some spray cheese on crackers and a Dr. Pepper; beats wine and fish eggs all day long.Of course, there are some smells that don’t bring up such pleasant memories, like a whiff of vinegar for example.  I don’t know how they did it, but the lunch ladies of Apache elementary made a thing called “sauerkraut and weenies,” and they did it with a lot of vinegar. The whole elementary reeked of vinegar on sauerkraut day. I could barely stand to pick out the weenie slices and get them down. I always lost ten minutes of recess on sauerkraut day. “Can’t go out until you eat everything on your plate,” said Mrs. No-Nonsense Alexander. She meant it too. There I would sit alone, still hungry, and watching all the best games get started without me. Vinegar stinks!

God has a nose.

The Bible says, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” I Corinthians 2:15.  One translation states it this way, “We are the aroma of Christ to God.”  The things we do actually have a scent. A beautiful rose smells sweet and I know some beautifully sweet people too.

In our symbols of worship, incense is used to symbolize our lives lifted unto God.  It represents our prayers, rising like smoke before God. So the question becomes, what incense do we hope to bring to God?  What can we offer to God that is pleasing, when everything around us stinks?

The aroma of Jesus Christ.

We offer up to God what He so graciously offered to us.

And if we try to describe what Jesus smells like, what words do we use?

Flowers?   Fresh baked cookies?  The fragrance after the rain?  Perhaps. But better yet, how about describing him as the aroma of love without requisite, the scent of joy, and the perfume of truth.  He is the redolence of hope and balm of grace.

Now that smells good.


Note from the Editor:  The “Barbershop Theology” series began last week.  You might have noticed this is “Part IV,” appearing just after the Intro Part I entry.  Very astute of you!  Dallas said that he’s going to write parts II and III as they gather momentum from part one, but got inspired by our “Man Cave” section this week to go ahead and put forward Part IV first.  In fact, he backed it up with rationale (and I quote…): “Heck, Lucas did it with Star Wars… anybody can go 1..2..3…4……but 1, 4, 2, 8, 9, 3, ….. who can do that?”

Good point, Dallas, good point. Enjoy!



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