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"He Knows Our Smell"

Several years ago, a client gave us a painting of Jesus holding a little lamb to his face. The picture demonstrated such tenderness, such closeness, such warmth and love. We hung it in our counseling office where we also held classes, small groups, and house church meetings. One night after one of our gatherings, we noticed a young Jewish man standing in front of the painting. He just stood there staring at it, mesmerized by it. After a while we became curious and walked up next to him. He told us what had so captured him. “You know that when Jesus called God ‘Father’ when he taught his disciples to pray, it was shocking to place God in such a close, human role. But Jesus went even further by calling God Abba—the very intimate name of affection the children in the Hebrew culture would use toward a beloved father (similar to Daddy or Papa to us).”

He continued, “The English language does not do the name justice. To us, Abba is not just the closeness of a daddy. To us it means he is so close that he knows our smell. This picture captures the very essence of what it means for God to be our Abba. His very nose is in the crook of our neck, and he knows our smell.”

It reminds me of my closeness to Jerry and how his aftershave smells. He has worn the same fragrance for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, as we sat up reading in bed, I would come across a sample card of a men’s cologne and rub it across his wrist. We never did find one we liked. Afterward, the fragrance would often bother me so much that I had to get a wet washcloth and wipe it off his wrist. It was like I didn’t know the person in bed next to me. It wasn’t Jerry’s smell!

So—going back to the painting of Jesus holding the lamb to his face: even today, remembering the story that young Jewish man shared, I am touched . . . and awed by that kind of Father. Many times I have brought that painting into the counseling room to share this story of how profound our Abba’s love for each one of us is . . . how profound his closeness . . . his face tucked in our neck.

Abba. He knows our smell.


“Father.” I often address you this way in my prayers to you. But many times I need to know that you are even more than my Father—as important as that is. I need to know that you know me and you have me, and you will never let me go. In those times I need to know you as my Abba. So today I choose to run to you and let you hold me close. And as I release all my fears and anxieties to you, I begin to rest in the truth that you really, really know me. You don’t just know my name. You don’t just know my voice. You don’t just know what I look like. You know my smell. You are up close and very personal to me. Thank you for being that intimate. Thank you for being my Abba.


The Father’s love for us is the same as the love he has for Jesus. To know this is very important. But to also feel this love from the Father takes it to another level, a level we believe God desires for all of us.​

("Jesus and the Lamb" Portrait by Katherine F. Brown, 1987)


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