Dana's mother opened the door, four of us Wagners walked into the kitchen, and my youngest daughter inhaled deeply.
"This smells like happiness," she said, as we all burst into laughter.
It was this past Saturday, some of the NCAA basketball tournament games were on, and we had been invited over for supper and the viewing of a game. Dana's mother, having learned how to cook West Indian cuisine from years of missionary service along with my father-in-law, had made chicken rotis. The smell of curry was heavy in the air, letting all of us know that we would be eating some of our very favorite kind of food. And that is what prompted the happy proclamation from my daughter. Ever since then, I have been mumbling and smiling over the words, "This smells like happiness."
I cannot disagree with her at all.
I can, though, add a fuller view of the picture than she at her age can fully comprehend.
In the house that night was a patriarch and matriarch of a family, married for more than 50 years. There was also one of the precious daughters that they raised, along with me, her husband of 25 years, and then two of the granddaughters that they adore.
Everyone there that night knows Christ as his or her personal Savior. We know that we have all eternity to enjoy one another's company, and we spend enormous quantities of time enjoying each other's company here and now. We vacation together, we hang out together, we laugh together, we cry together.
Everyone in the family is faithfully in church and faithfully serving the Lord together. We are physical family, and we are "forever family."
And that smells like happiness to me. The smell of curry in the air is more about a precious family experience than just an amazing culinary experience.
Ephesians 6:1-4 says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise); That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
This passage shows the pattern of a mother, a father, children, all right with each other and with the Lord. This is a source of happiness that greatly predates smartphones, social media, theme parks, movie theaters and is still worth more by far than all of those things combined. It is evident to anyone with a habit of being observant that the traditional family unit, especially the godly traditional family, is facing many headwinds in our day. The siren song of cheap sex, abdication of responsibility, instant gratification, easy divorce and drifting away from biblical guidelines on the home all too often robs people of the "smell of happiness" that only comes from doing things God's way generation after generation.
Do not misunderstand me. God's grace is still available no matter what you or those before you have done and no matter what disastrous messes have been made of things. But the ideal we should be striving for as a society is the God-ordained ideal of children growing up in a home with a godly mother, a godly father and (if they are still living) godly grandparents smiling in satisfaction at each new generation that walks safely in their steps. If everyone stays healthy for just a few more years, it is my hope to have four generations doing so together.
The smell of happiness indeed.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhis mouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.