We moved into our house in July, 2004 (moving report). Our house is a “duplex” of sorts and dates back to 1900. It’s a hodge-podge of an Alsatian home, attached to the structures on either side of it, like most of the buildings in the town center here in Soultz. Due to its odd dimensions, several of which have drawn blood from my 6′ 2” scalp, we call it our “Hobbit House”…when we’re affectionately disposed toward it…
One of its oddities is that on its right side, where it’s joined to the house next door, there isn’t a single dividing wall that goes straight up and down between the houses. If one could see it in 3-D from that side, you’d see that the living room goes father into “their side” than, say Olivia’s bedroom just above or the kitchen next to it, etc. Truly bizarre… My architect friend James Skaines tried to measure our house once and there was much scratching of heads trying to make sense of how it’s laid out. In fact, I’m sure it was not “laid out” but probably was a single home with the neighbors and then just split up at some point.
This isn’t about bizarre architecture though…
The house next door, as far as we can tell, is comprised of 2 or 3 apartments. For our first year, at least one, maybe two of those were vacant and the other taken by, as we heard, a flight attendant who was rarely there. It was practically vacant as far as we were concerned.
…’tis no more…
Somebody moved in this summer. Due to the nature of how our entry-ways are placed and our non-intersecting lives, we never see their comings and goings (not even sure what they look like!). But, lately, we’ve been all too aware of their presence. Why? Because of a smell that permeates our living room. The smell of stale cigarette smoke comes and goes in our living room through some porous opening somewhere between the two houses.
Not to criticize those who smoke, it’s just that the smell drives me fairly crazy! I can live with cigar smoke (really!). Pipe smoke can even be pleasant, but cigarette smoke is more than I can take. (definitely more difficult in Europe at the moment than in the US where anti-smoking laws have been circulating much longer).
One night recently, when I was smelling “fresh” cigarette smoke in our bedroom (a slightly different but equally annoying smell that has started to occur there as well!) while laying in bed, I felt God saying that this would be an excellent opportunity to pray for my neighbors. So, now, while still racking my brain to figure out how I can better seal our house from “odor-attack”, I’m trying to use my nose to trigger my prayers! It’s not easy, let me assure you!
I’m reminded that Paul told the Corinthians (way back before they thought that deodorant was cool), that God “…manifests the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” and that “…we are a fragrance of Christ…” For me, as I get smacked in the nose with this reminder to pray for my neighbors, I wonder, what fragrance do my neighbors smell? Here’s an American family with 3 kids, several musical instruments, 2 cats and a loud car (needs serious work!). Personality-wise, we’re not individually in anybody’s face since we’re all mostly introverted, but it’s obvious that we stick out a bit and I’m sure that “sore thumb” might be an apt description at times!
My prayer right now, is that we could have some contact with these neighbors (and all the others around us) and that we could begin to build relationships and that the fragrance of Jesus might be the overriding olfactory sensation in this neighborhood!