Jesus Smells Like Murphey’s Oil Soap

Why am I here?

Obligation. Guilt. Fear.

Whatever reason, I give up my Saturday for it. Meet this ragtag group to clean the church.

I dip rag into bucket of cleaning solution, ignore irritation. I begin: dip rag, wring out, move across wood…

The vacuum hums. Noise so loud we shout to hear. It doesn’t help me relax into this.

I excuse myself.

I stand alone, breath… wonder–why feel this way? The answer looms. I struggle to love this church. Too many hurtful words, too much hypocrisy. Much of what Jesus hates.

I feel little affection for these walls. I have watched my husband’s fledgling faith wings clipped by those who worship here.

The beginnings of bitterness begin to creep in. Like poison entering my body, it moves slowly through my blood.

Jesus help me.

I wipe more pews.

Dip, wring, wipe. Rub away dirt.

Something happens.

He comes.

This oily lemony aroma comforts me. Gleaming wood sings. I sing too.

This plain piece of wood has more beauty than the most intricate of carvings. It cradles the Body of Christ.

I think of the wood that touched our Lord’s skin, soaked in His blood. Wiping becomes caress. The smell envelopes me and I remember.

Some worship the building instead of our Lord.

I have seen it.

But on this morning, hands dripping with Murphy’s Oil Soap, I realize it is only when I see Jesus here that I can to love these walls.

Jesus edges into my heart and nudges away the bitterness.

He leaves only love.

I first met Jesus as a young girl, falling asleep in the dark alone–forgotten by parents and a world I did not understand. A girl lost…now found. When I became aware of Him, the scent of my world changed. From cold empty smell of winter, to life-giving spring. I could smell His breath hot against my cheek–moisture mixing with tears. Ever since, it is always the smell that alerts me to His presence when I forget myself and Him.

Just as He revealed Himself to me through difficult places with my family of origin then, now He speaks through my church family. He wrestles me down in the midst of these people I love…these people who bruise me with words and actions. I am at the ford of Jabbok with them when He touches my hip–changes the way I forever walk. It is in these family squabbles, bruised hearts, and humbled forgiveness that He breaks through that thin wall that separates eternity from my world. 

When I read of the Thin Places Kindle contest, this experience came to mind–this smell of HIM. It is in the Thin Place of struggling relationships that He has often soothed me. Read about the Kindle contest here. And don’t forget to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Mary DeMuth’s memoir: Thin Places.


  1. says

    I have not often known forgiveness for – or from – the people in those pews. Sunday was my telling, my forgiving, my freeing – encountering Jesus in the faces surrounding me. This post resonates deep.

  2. says

    Often I find myself comforted by the scents of my childhood. The lilies and roses in church on Sundays, the smell of baking cookies wafting from the church kitchen on weeknights. I remember these whenever I walk into the florists or the bakery. A feeling of peace comes over me. A sweet, gentle joy. Beautiful post, Laura.

  3. says

    hmmmm…good stuff. I’m reading So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore…interesting book that brings it all back around to our 1st love relationship…makes a HUGE difference how we look at everything. In our daughters lives “the church” was where they got their legs knocked out from under them…we did not need the world for that…it was such a good challenge to pursue Him in the midst of the failures of people to find Him in the middle of it all…ready to meet us and teach us about Love.

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