I was thinking about this when I came across Paul's metaphor of us as fragrances in 2 Corinthians 2. In this little snippet of Scripture he says that we are a "fragrance of Christ" to the world around us. A sweet smelling fragrance in the midst of the stench of death and hopelessness.
I don't often feel like a sweet smelling fragrance of Christ. I would not compare my life to the latest Giorgio Armani fragrance, and most of the time I wonder if people can even tell that anything is different about my life. But Paul's reminder is that I don't have to go around wondering what kind of fragrance I'm putting out, as if one day I can produce stench and the other day something intoxicatingly beautiful.
Instead, Paul simply says that I am a fragrance of life among a fragrance of death. This gives me tremendous hope, realizing it does not depend upon my effort. I don't have to try to be a different kind of fragrance, I am a different kind of fragrance already. Christ has done the work.
Our lives tell a story, and our lives give off a fragrance. In Christ we are assured that both are redeemed and given new dimensions. Just because our effort doesn't determine the goodness or badness of our fragrance doesn't exempt us from doing something, however. We are called to go into the world, to bring that fragrance to the world.
So while we don't have to go around wondering what our lives are smelling like, we are commanded to go and bring that fragrance to other lives. Which turns everything outward. It exposes the lack of trust we have in Christ to actually bring about that sweet fragrance. It's easier to ponder how we smell, trying to produce a "better" fragrance, than it is to simply trust that Christ makes us sweet smelling fragrances and that all we need to do is walk by faith.
"Cease striving", the Psalmist reminds us. "Come to me", says Jesus. "Seek first the Kingdom". If we reorient our lives around Christ, He will take us where we need to go. He will guide our steps and take us to the places that desperately need the fragrance of Christ. What a good thought, that we don't have to try so hard on our own. All we have to do is follow Christ, placing our complete trust in Him, and submitting our lives to radical obedience. He will show us the way.