I was greeted with an unexpected experience when I stopped by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ prayer memorial today. Walking closer to the signs, rosary beads, gifts, flowers, and candles, a sweet smell became noticeable. It wasn’t a strong, overwhelming scent, but subtle, soft, and warm. It hadn’t occurred to me that the scent of the many flowers and candles would be part of the experience, but it certainly was. As the breeze would pick up, the smell would grow stronger and then, just like the breeze, stillness would set in and the subtlety would return.
I decided to go by on my way to another meeting because I’m planning to take my kids there this afternoon. I needed to have my initial private reaction without them because they are easily distracted by my tears. Being present to help them process will be my purpose. At first I was overwhelmed by all that was going on around me. The colors, the signs, words of prayer, hope, and encouragement, so many flowers and candles, people, the smell, cars honking to show support, and even church bells in the distance.
But that smell. It just hung over me. Such a beautiful smell.
Many of you know that smell is a big deal to me. Chad (and my friend, Emily) often say that I make smells up, that my smell memory often confuses me into thinking a smell is real. Maybe they are right, or maybe my smeller works better than theirs, but whatever the case, smell is one of my favorite senses. Esther can’t smell a thing and I’m often sad for her. I can walk by a house in our neighborhood at dinner time and instantly be brought back to times we arrived at my grandmother’s house in time to eat her chicken and rice. Or I can walk by a man in the grocery store and remember sitting in my dad’s lap as a little girl after he had showered and shaved. Or I can walk by Miss Saigon’s trash can and feel like I’m right back in China behind my favorite restaurant. Smell is a powerful tool for memory in my life.
As I walked around the prayer memorial today, God used the fragrance of the candles and flowers to remind me of Psalm 141:2. “May my prayers be set before you like incense, may the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” I cried. Again.
Oh, that my prayers would be set before him like incense. If the smell of today’s incense is any indication it means that my prayers would be humble, sincere, not so busy and full of too many words, that they would grow stronger as the breeze of his Spirit prompts me, that they would be constant and always noticeable...in a good way...to those around me.
I will continue to pray for healing in our city, that many Tucsonans will find and trust Jesus through this horrible tragedy. I pray that as we continue to face the horribleness of this dark world that our prayers and lives would be a fragrant offering to the Most High God.