Stirring from a brief nap, the young man began staring out the window of the Greyhound bus as it rumbled along the eastern Tennessee countryside. Occupied with his own thoughts, he didn’t notice the older lady sitting across the aisle until she spoke.
“Reverend Gaston, the bus driver tells me you’re a brand new minister.”
He smiled sheepishly. “Yes, ma’am . . . Graduation Day was yesterday . . . I hope I don’t resemble a little kid posing in his father’s suit.”
She chuckled. “That definitely sums up my first impression of you!”
“I guess I don’t look very convincing.” He smiled ruefully.
“If God’s convinced, why worry about anyone else?”
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he said softly, “My father is a gifted speaker, but I’m not.”
“Remember this: ‘God doesn’t call the equipped . . . He equips the called!’” She extended her small hand. “Before I spout any other judgments, the very least I can do is introduce myself . . . I’m Caroline Moore.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“I hope you don’t mind, but I found your Bible on your seat.” She held the book to her nose. “Ah, the fragrance of fine leather . . . is it a graduation present?”
“Yes, ma’am . . . Father gave it to me before I left . . . he said I needed a new Bible for my new position.”
“Where might that be?”
“Father arranged for me to pastor a small church near Fayette. I’m on my way there now . . .”
“Young man, you’ll suffocate under the heavy expectations of others! You need to be better equipped to meet the challenges you’ll face!”
“I’m not sure I understand . . .”
She reached into her handbag and withdrew a small book. “Here’s my Bible . . . what’s the difference between mine and yours?”
“Well, it’s quite worn and used,” he said softly, and then read the words inscribed on the inside page: “To my beloved husband, Carlton, on our first Christmas together – with all my love, Caroline (1941).” He found himself handling this Bible as carefully as fine crystal.
“Does it have the fragrance of fine leather?” She folded her arms and waited.
He felt a little strange about holding her Bible to his nose, but he did as she requested. “It smells like flowers.”
“That’s probably from the gardenia sachet I carry in my purse. My Bible is deeply integrated into my life. This may sound odd, but I use my Bible so much that it even smells like me. I’ve carried it ever since Carlton brought it back home after World War II.”
“That makes sense.” He tried to return her Bible to her, but she halted him with a question.
“Did you notice the stains on the pages?”
He carefully thumbed through the darkened pages, where passages were underlined in faded ink. Some of the pages were stained to the point of being too difficult to read.
“The stains are from rainwater dripping into foxholes, mixed with the sweat and blood of a weary soldier longing for home. I’ve carried it for sixty years . . . now it’s yours.”
“No, I couldn’t possibly . . . “
“I insist,” she said, settling in her seat. “It’s served us well . . . all I ask is that you write me and let me know how things are going for you at your new church. My address is written on the inside front cover. I’ll rest now, but start reading, beginning with II Corinthians 2:14.”
He turned to the passage and read the darkened page: “But thanks be to God, Who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” (NIV)
Gaston observed the lady as she slept. Her time-worn face, very much like the cover of the battlefield Bible, was etched with fine lines, yet there was a serene presence about her. She wasn’t consumed by worry, or burdened with heavy expectations.
The wisdom found in this Bible had comforted a man on a war-torn battlefield, and strengthened a lady through sixty years of untold challenges to her faith and life. Surely, it would help a newly-minted preacher overcome paralyzing insecurity.
Each time we encounter someone, we are presented with the opportunity to spread the “fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Do we seize the opportunity, or do we let it slip by?
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