The smell of the countryside


Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

Living in the countryside is wonderful. Green fields, hedgerows, trees, birds singing, the sight of wild animals and the smell. Yes the smell! How powerful and what memories are created by the sense of smell.

The smell of spring, wild flowers, primroses and bluebells, honeysuckle, blackthorn and new mown grass. Freshly cut summer straw in the field and the scent of fresh strawberries – and then comes autumn and the smell that rises when the silage clamp is first opened. All are so evocative to me.

It is true, however, that not all smells are sweet, or pleasant. How many folks discover they really can sprint if only to the washing line to rescue the freshly washed clothes because the air is filled with the smell of someone spreading slurry. The smell that hangs in the air, clings to clothes and lingers for days until the rain comes. Now that takes the sense of smell to a new level!

It is the kind of smell that causes loved ones not to greet you when you come home with a cheery smile - as I have often found out - ‘Daddy you are stinking,’ so the clothes are discarded at the back door. This, by the way, is another advantage of living in the country as you can undress at the back door without the fear of anyone seeing you (in my case anyway!)

The Bible has much to say about smell, about fragrance and its power to influence decisions. In Genesis 27:27 we see how Jacob deceived Isaac, his blind father, through smell.

‘And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!”’

The death of the Lord Jesus on the cross is spoken of in Ephesians 5:2 as ‘a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’. But have you ever considered the Good News of the gospel as a smell?

In 2 Corinthians 2:15 we read, ‘For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.’ Here the Apostle Paul is writing about a Roman march of triumph after a victorious battle. With generals and soldiers processing, there would also be the captured slaves with priests carrying their burning incense to pay tribute to the returning army.

The smell of the incense affected people in different ways. To the soldiers it was the smell of victory, to the conquered it was the smell of defeat, even death. To those of us who believe in Jesus, the gospel is the sweet smell of victory - to those who refuse Jesus, the gospel is the smell of judgement and death.

However, this verse also suggests that those who believe and are followers of Jesus are to be the fragrance of Christ. The way we live, conduct our affairs, run our business, treat and speak to others, can mean life or death to a lost world. We need to ask ourselves ‘do we leave that sweet smell of Jesus behind wherever we are?’

At the same time, do you know that sweet aroma and that precious fragrance of Christ?

Robin Fairbairn is pastor/evangelist with Ballygowan Presbyterian Church in County Down and also works as ministry development officer with The Good Book Company. He lives in the country and has been farming every Saturday for more years than he cares to admit.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at or call him on 028 9753 1234.