Friday, February 19, 2016

Scent Evoked Memories

Year 4-Day 50: Today, I am grateful for scent evoked memories.

You know what they are and have likely experienced them.  The smell of an new box of crayons whisks you back to kindergarten. Or, what about that fragrance of that paste likes school glue? Perhaps, the smell of toll house cookies in the oven when you walk in the door say welcome home like no other scent? Realtors count on that one. 

Scents evoke memories.  What a novelist now supports. 

It’s known as “odor-evoked autobiographical memory” or the Proust phenomenon, after French writer Marcel Proust. In his famous novel In Search of Lost Time, the narrator dips a particular kind of pastry into a cup of tea creating a scent and he finds himself transported back in time to a childhood memory. 

Often scent and taste are related. But it is the scent that draws us in. For me...the smell of lilac takes me back to the huge bush in our back yard on a perfect spring day. Another includes my great Aunt Elin...she was born around 1890...used to watch us some Saturdays so Mom could go to the salon for her 70's beehive hair-do. The smell of Brach's chocolate stars with cheddar cheese and mustard on take me back to the moment and her porch swing.  

Scent memories are powerful. Jesus...knowing us better than we know our selves...he knew it and acted on it.  I told you we would finish Peter, today.  Yesterday's gratitude was for the grace that transforms our shameful mistakes into a new sense of purpose.  Failure in Jesus is not final. 

Peter had denied Jesus three times after promising vehemently he never would.  

John 13:36-38 36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Passionate Peter.  This would surely NOT happen as Jesus predicted.  But it did. 

John 18:17-18 "The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants[e]and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself."

Note the charcoal fire.  It has a unique scent. For most - it brings back some kind of memory.  For Peter, it would mark his memory with his denial of Christ. Charcoal, failure and shame would go together. Those moments clearly etched in his memory and in his scent memories.  

John 18:25- Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

Matthew 26:75 "And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. 

Our pastor pointed out that charcoal is rarely only mentioned one other time in 
the New Testament. This resonated with me. Think about it.  The fragrance of a charcoal fire is unique and imprints on the memory.  For most it is a happy memory of meals with friends or even camping.  Not for Peter.  Charcoal would evoke shame. It would sweep him back to his betrayal of his best friend and Lord. 

I have always loved that Jesus allowed Peter THREE times to answer him, "Do you love me?"  As if forgiving each denial.  What I never caught before was the charcoal fire: 

John 21-8-10  "The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 
This was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples.  Sure the first meetings for Peter were awkward as he carried his shame on hung shoulders.  Jesus had already forgiven him...but Peter couldn't likely forgive himself.  Jesus evoked a scent memory...made a new memory with it...and offered him forgiveness and healing. 
Peter became more as a result of his failure.  Failure...with never final. From that day forward...charcoal smells would bring a new memory. One of new promises, forgiveness and a new mission.  Peter left the shame behind and went on to shepherd, tend, feed and build believers.
Certain summer smells take me back to Aroma Park Nazarene Church Camp.  A season of smells, making forever friends and drawing nearer to my Lord. 
What scents are you grateful for today...after coffee?  
Today, I am grateful for scent evoked memories.

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