All breath smells. Some smells good. Some smells bad. What we eat or drink or smoke affects the quality of our breath. That which we ingest permeates that which we exhale, whether it’s coffee or bourbon or beer, Doritos or barbeque chips, hummus or olive tapenade. Listerine, cough drops, or gum can mask a smell for a while, but the essence remains.
We read in John’s Easter appearance of Jesus to his disciples in the locked room that he breathed on them. Some have wondered, as do I, what his breath smelled like. Did it smell of death, like my Grandma’s last labored breath? Or like stale wine, all vinegary? Perhaps, he had stopped for some fish and hadn’t brushed his teeth yet. Or, did it smell like a newborn’s first breath, without any contaminates touching his lips? He was a sinless, new creation, after all.
Is there anything sweeter than a baby’s breath? I remember the smell of Miriam’s breast-milk breath. A little sour, but oh, so wonderful. Now, she is a toddler, and her mouth often exudes the aroma of peanut butter or banana. And then late at night, when she can’t sleep through the night in her crib, she cuddles with me. As she drifts off back to sleep, I lay next to her, listening to her, and smelling her breath. It smells a little like sleep and is heavier than when she was first born, but it is still pure.
Even when I am tired, I am inspired by my girl’s breath.
The word for Spirit in both Hebrew and Greek is the same word as breath. Ruah and Pneuma. Pneumonia causes labored breathing. Respiration is the act of breathing. See the “spirit” in there? When Jesus breathes on his disciples, he is giving them the Spirit. But he is also giving them new life, just as God breathed into the nostrils of the first earthling in Genesis.
Creation is an on-going process, which occurs with every new breath – yours, mine, babies, plants, and animals. God’s Spirit is blown into the world with each inhale and exhale.
What does God’s breath smell like? It might smell like a nursing home, with lives nearer to eternal rest. Or maybe an Italian restaurant, full of flavor. Perhaps it smells like fresh, cut grass after a spring rain. But really, I think the Spirit smells like peanut butter and banana. And sometimes it smells like sleep.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.