The Fragrance of Grace by Amy Nicholson

Traveling out of state to visit a college with our son last weekend, my husband and I visited a service plaza on the interstate. It was busy. Cars filled up at gas pumps. Hungry, weary travelers walked in and out of the building that houses various fast food places—McDonald’s, Papa Gino’s, D’Angelo’s, and some fresher options. We decided on sandwiches and placed our order. (No, we had not taken the healthier route. When a hot roast beef and cheese grinder is an option, there’s no contest.) The cashier gave us soda cups. I had my husband hold my cup so I could find the ladies room.

It was on the other side of the lobby. I worked my way through the crowd of people. Some were eating, some on their phones, some just standing around. We were all on our way to somewhere else, but for the moment we were making the pit stop to rest up and refresh. Right before I got to the ladies room, I saw on my left an extensive retail counter with several shelves full of fancy perfumes in shiny, metallic boxes and glass atomizers behind locked glass doors. My eyes followed this strange sight up to the sign above the glass cases: Gucci. The display doors were locked. These were expensive bottles of fragrance. The cash register at the end of the counter was covered.

I thought it odd that this very fancy counter was nestled in between a fast food restaurant and the restrooms at a travel plaza. There were no other upscale stores in the building. On the floor were some racks of T-shirts for sale, some ball caps and other souvenirs, but this place was really in stark contrast to the rest. Suddenly, I felt rather underdressed in my jeans and T-shirt.

As I pondered the perfume counter and wondered what on earth the vendor was thinking when he rented the space—who was going to finish his Big Mac and mosey over to the counter to purchase some $90 eau de toilette?—a metaphor unfolded.

We are all travelers in this life. We are here walking around, “doing life,” trying to figure things out, sometimes just trying to get through the day. We have appetites to appease. We work so we can eat. How we do this is up to us, but it’s mostly about survival. Then at some point, for some of us, we turn around and over our shoulder we see something that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the scene. It happens when we meet Jesus on our life journey.

Up until that point, only the smell of fast food grease filled our nostrils. Life was only about us and what we could get out of life, about getting ahead and hoarding earthly treasures. And now here is this person of God revealing to us that life and everything in it is a gift, and all the mistakes we’ve made can be forgiven. We just need to step up to the counter where Jesus offers us the sweetest fragrance imaginable.

This is a chance not only to lift our spirits but to find joy beyond anything on this earth. As we imbibe the scent that covers us in His glory, we can say with the author of the Song of Songs, “Your name spoken is a spreading perfume.” God promises us we are not alone. We are His, robed in His glory and the sweet fragrance of His righteousness. We don’t have to settle for unhealthy choices that only provide temporary satisfaction. We can be covered in grace.

We might look around and wonder how we got here. We were just minding our own business when God offered us a glimpse of His glory—a most unusual and seemingly random sight amidst the hustle and bustle of our striving to get through this life, sometimes fighting to stay alive. And He was just sitting there all along, reaching out His hand. But unlike the Gucci perfume counter, God’s cabinets are not locked. The luxuries of grace, joy, and forgiveness are free and offered to all, just like they are at the heavenly throne.

On our return trip, we stopped at the service plaza, this time on the southbound side. Sure enough, there was another Gucci counter. This one was open for business with a salesman sitting on a stool behind the counter. We snapped a photo. He’ll likely never know the priceless lesson I learned from his counter. He probably thinks he’s only selling pricey perfume. 

Amy Nicholson hopes to encourage and inspire others through her writing. She has been published in Country Woman, The Old Schoolhouse, The Lookout, and other publications. In addition to writing and discovering grace in ordinary places, Amy substitute teaches. Visit her at:


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