The Smell of Clean

I love clean. I love the smell of clean. Air fresheners, light citrus scents, dryer sheets, clean clothes – all of it! I love the smell of clean. Unlike many who are overwhelmed, I find I love the perfume and cosmetic section of a store. My sense of smell is uncanny. I can smell any and everything. It is a blessing. It is a curse.

As a nurse I have been able to use this as a gift to know what’s going on with patients. A smell can alert you to infection, bleeding, gastrointestinal problems, and death.

As a person it feels like a curse. I live in a city. Enough said. I got on the subway last week and I did not smell the scent of clean. I immediately smelt the thick scent of an unwashed body and someone who I knew did not have access to a toilet. I wanted to recoil. I wanted to back up and move away. I desperately wished that I had a sweet-smelling tissue in my purse – but I didn’t. I longed for the smell of clean. I longed to jump off the train and straight into Macy’s, whose door would lead me to heavenly smells. But I didn’t.

How awful is this? Here is a human being, made in the image of God, and all I want? All I want is the smell of clean.

And I think of how God loves the smell of clean too. But his perspective is different, because his clean is real and eternal. His clean is inside and radiates out. His clean is of the heart and soul so it lasts.

As quickly as I begin to recoil I am humbled. God loves the smell of clean – but he knows that his clean will last and mine will just get dirty again. And without grace, the man on the subway and I are both in the same pig pen. We need clean. Not sweet-smelling citrus clean; not perfume section fake clean; God-made clean.


Blogger’s Note – An Article from Communicating Across Boundaries was published in a magazine for Third Culture Kids called “Among Worlds”. Celebrating this small transition from web to print.

7 thoughts on “The Smell of Clean

  1. I once sat next to a whiffy man on a plane. I was sitting there in stiff self-righteousness, then I reached up to turn on the light and realised some of the smell was me – a long flight on a hot plane had made me sweat. I’venever forgotten the lesson!


  2. This was one post I emailed the link to others, though, I knew that only a few would want to even consider what this might mean in their own lives. And true to expectation those who willingly leave their comfort zone and desire to walk among humanity were the ones who could say a hearty Amen. Yet I will keep sharing these considerations with others to expand their thinking and allow their hearts to be stimulated to make a difference and to see themselves among the breadth of humanity.


  3. Such good thoughts, Marilyn. You made me stop and think … I believe that when we realize that without God’s grace, we’re a mess and just plain stinky, we learn to love others who also are a mess because we know we’re no different. Thanks for the thoughts!


    1. Thanks for adding to the thoughts Jessica. It hit me in a wave as I wanted to hold my nose….:( unfortunately I still have my strong sense of smell. Hopefully I’ll remember this next time.


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