You Smell Good

Ecclesiastes 7:1-2

Here comes the bride. If she’s the typical, wedding-obsessed woman, she’ll have spent eons choosing the perfect dress. An army of family and attendants will have labored over her hair and makeup for hours. After all, it is her wedding day and she has to look perfect. Never mind that the guy waiting at the end of the aisle could see her in an off-the-rack sundress with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and go weak in the knees. She still wants to look great.

Everybody looks good–or at least as good as they can–on their wedding day. They want to project an image, an aura that says, “I’m fabulous.” In fact, although I haven’t done any research, I’d guess that nearly everyone smells good on their wedding day. The reason isn’t hard to understand.

A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
since that is the end of all mankind,
and the living should take it to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-2

Real Reputation

The purpose behind all that fixing-up for the wedding kind of baffles me. From the bride’s side, it essentially says to the groom, “You’ve never seen me look better than this, and you’ll never see me this good again.” Am I being cynical?

We all know that the typical wedding attempts to project an image that isn’t particularly attached to reality. If you doubt me on that, then how many times does the bride obsess that much over a million details? The wedding, including the participants’ appearance, seems to say, “This how I want you to think that I am, but we all know that I’m not.” Frequently, I find, something will undercut that whole attempt at name-projecting. There’s the bride, hair, makeup, and dress perfect, but she’s chewing gum.

Just like perfume can make people seem more attractive than they really are, all that wedding fussing and fretting can put on a fairly convincing veneer. Such an image, however, just can’t last. For some people the wedding image they attempt to project doesn’t even survive the reception.

I have nothing against weddings, but I’m much more impressed with marriages. Weddings are perfume, but marriages, which have survived the ups and downs, are the proof, the good name. The day of our death is the day that we can no longer mess up our marriage.

Getting in Tune

What does all of this have to do with your life and with Ecclesiastes? Hopefully you can connect the dots that I’ve laid down. We all spend time in our lives applying perfume, doing things that are intended to make us look, sound, and smell good to those who are around. Just yesterday, I spent a good part of the afternoon mowing my grass, which can be a major “perfume” action.

These aren’t bad things. We shouldn’t go about our lives stinking, after all. But if we attend to these surface matters and ignore the things that create an enduring reputation, a good name, then people will think that we stink, no matter how good we smell.

As believers in Christ, inhabited by the Holy Spirit and created in the image of God, that stink doesn’t just reflect on us.

How to Obsess about Trivia

Round is a ShapeGuys, you know you have been wondering about this. You know you’ve been parking yourself in front of the mirror after pulling that t-shirt over your head and puzzling, “How can I look more like a super macho guy in this shirt?” If that’s the case, then your desires are about to be fulfilled. Browse on over to the always-spiritual pages of Men’s Fitness and read an article that answers just such a question.

In case you can’t wait for your browser to make that jump–which does require a painstaking few seconds of advertising before loading the article–I can sum up the basics here:

While attacking the large muscle groups in your upper body—your back, chest, shoulders—is obviously important, the key to looking great in a t-shirt is in the finer details. In other words, it’s all about targeting the little muscles within the bigger muscles.

The author then goes on to detail some of those little muscles and to prescribe exercises designed to target them. If you’re taking notes, you might need to add hammer curls and dumbbell skull crushers–hey, I’m not making this stuff up–to your workout routine.

In the interests of full disclosure, when someone asks me–no one has, by the way–“Do you even lift, bro?” I can say that I do lift weights 4 or 5 days a week. Why? As a runner and a biker and a guy who likes to be able to do stuff around the house, I would like to have a strong body. I’m a functional lifter.

I do not, however, lift in order to look better in my t-shirts, and I will not be adding hammer curls to work on my brachialis muscles for that purpose.  I might add hammer curls or work on my brachialis if I felt that such action would help me to do something like run faster or leap tall buildings in a single bound.

In 1 Samuel 16:7, when Samuel is trying to determine which of Jesse’s sons God wants him to anoint as king, Samuel is warned not to consider how these guys looked in t-shirts: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Although I intend to continue lifting weights, I will not be paying much attention to the article linked above. When I enter heaven, I hope to be greeted as a good and faithful servant. I’m pretty certain that God will not be looking at me and saying, “Nice pecs, dude!”

Like Nails on a Chalkboard?

The New York Times ran a story recently describing the terrible working conditions among nail salons in New York. The exploitation of vulnerable people, made possible due to customer vanity and cheapness, ought to make a Christian recoil. Does it?

Among the more than 100 workers interviewed by The Times, only about a quarter said they were paid an amount that was the equivalent of New York State’s minimum hourly wage. All but three workers, however, had wages withheld in other ways that would be considered illegal, such as never getting overtime.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good. There’s nothing wrong with shopping for a bargain. But when you discover that your nice nails at a nice price come at the cost of someone else earning a decent living, the aesthetics and economics certainly change.