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Smelly Hockey Gear

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Smelly Hockey Gear

Written by: Jake Hannon 

For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the latter one an aroma from death to death [a fatal, offensive odor], but to the other an aroma from life to life [a vital fragrance, living and fresh].

2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Have you been around the game of hockey so long a locker room smells good to you?  Or maybe you just don’t smell anything at all anymore – your smell glands are fried in your nostrils!  I remember my first experience with the putridity of hockey gear.  I was watching a game with my family and as the big, burly players came strutting down the tunnel with their robotic like gear one of us said “It smells like cheeseballs!”.  Since that moment I have always had a fond appreciation for the more sensory aspects of this game we all love.

Despite it’s gruesome stench, the hockey locker room is a sacred place.  There is almost an invisible code of conduct, as established by the hockey powers that have been, in which certain behaviors are accepted and rejected.  Certain types of thinking and acting can be viewed as “smelly” to those that have been around the game for a long time.  Can you agree with me that Christianity is more often than not “smelly” around the rinks?  Aside from great servants of God like you and great hockey ministries like FCA Hockey, our sport is dominated by those that could care less about God (or at least don’t want to talk about Him).  If hockey is not the most closed off sport to faith in God I don’t know what is.  Getting back to the point, just as your teammate’s gitch (undergarments, socks and cup) can develop it’s own lethal odor, so can you too develop your own scent amongst the boys (or girls) on your squad as a Christian. This got me thinking, what do we as Christians smell like in the locker rooms, and how do we affect that sacred atmosphere?

According to Paul’s writing in this verse, it is very clear that we smell.  This means that we are having impact in the locker room regardless of whether we sense it or not.  Be encouraged, even the most hardened of your teammates or players is receiving something from you!  You have the Spirit of God in you and God is doing so many things behind the scenes you wouldn’t believe it even if you saw it!  When I was younger, I was a member of a Christian family with parents who followed God, but I often did a horrible job of letting my Christ-like fragrance be sensed.  For many years and in many locker rooms, I kept silent and tried not to smell too bad.  Every day I took a shower with the things of this world so that I wouldn’t smell too much like Jesus.  When I look back and think about what could have been, I only accumulate that much more respect for those of you who continue to be faithful to God in your locker rooms even when it is difficult.  Take it from someone who screwed up pretty bad – don’t mask your Jesus scent!  You are making an eternal impact and God will reward you for it!

Paul shows that, while we definitely smell, we are going to smell different depending who you ask.  To “those that are being saved”, we smell like “the sweet fragrance of Christ”.  I think what Paul has two groups of people in mind when he says “those that are being saved”.  The first group is pretty obvious – other believers.  How awesome is it when you have that one other Christian in your locker room?!  Even though we have everything sufficient for life in our Lord, we still oftentimes need that encouragement, that support and prayer and just raw brotherhood or sisterhood to keep fighting the good fight and making a difference in our locker rooms.    In the book of Acts, the earliest church (the one that grew by 3,000 people in one day and spread like wildfire across the earth) was so united that they “were of one heart and soul” and “no one said any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).  We have to stick together!  And we are like a sweet fragrance to one another in locker rooms that often smell pretty bad.  The other group is those that are being saved.  It is interesting to note that there seems to be a process to being saved.  I believe that when we declare Jesus as our Savior, salvation is an instantaneous thing.  However, sometimes it takes some time for those around us to really accept the truth.  Just as God was patient with us in our unbelief, so too can we be patient with others around us.  But keep the faith, because as Paul clearly writes there are some around you even today that are “BEING SAVED”!!! Amen!!

On the other hand, Paul says that we smell “offensive” to “those that are perishing”.  No worries, it is God’s job to do with our smell what He pleases.  Don’t be discouraged.  God says “blessed are you when you are persecuted, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).  Aside from the blessings waiting for us in heaven, I also think we’re blessed on earth because of our persecution because we have a way to respond that others could never comprehend.  Everyone smells.  Even the most popular players can’t please everyone.  Often, those popular figures respond to criticism and failure better than others and that’s what sets them apart and makes them popular.  How much more can we respond well to criticism for our Christ-likeness with the peace of God in our hearts!  It is not us that the haters hate, after all, it is the perfect Son of God who loved them and gave himself for them that gets under their prideful, stubborn minded skin!  John 15:18-19 says, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first.  If you were of the world, it would love you as its own.  Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world”.  It’s God’s grace that saved us, let’s give the same grace to those who don’t respond to our fragrance the way we would hope!

Each time we open up our smelly hockey bag in the locker room, let’s remember that we ourselves are the beautiful fragrance of Christ in that environment.  People are noticing and “being saved” because of us!  And, though we may get some flack for our heavenly cologne, it is not our weight to carry! 

Discussion Questions

  • Do you wash your gitch?
  • Have you ever noticed an underlying response to your Christianity in the room?
  • How can we encourage each other to keep a pure scent in the midst of persecution?

Additional Reading

  • Acts 4:32
  • Matthew 5:11-12
  • John 15:18-19

About the Author:

Jake is a 2013 graduate of Liberty University and played one season with the Flames.  Before attending Liberty in 2011 for his last season of college eligibility, Jake spent two years playing for NCAA Division III Amherst College and one year playing for NCAA Division I Army.  The former defenseman has four years of Junior Hockey experience before college as well, having spent time in the USHL, EJHL, NAHL, and CJHL at various points in his career.  After college, Jake spent one year as the Liberty Hockey Team Chaplain before being offered the position of Assistant Coach for the team.  After two years of coaching the Flames, Jake was called into full time ministry in Buffalo, NY.  Jake now lives in Buffalo and serves as the Erie County Area Representative for FCA.  Jake is married to Rebecca and has three children – Grace, Daniel and Gabby.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Amelia wrote:
Thank you so much for sharing your words and your gift of writing with us. I always enjoy reading your articles and most especially how you link hockey, the Word of God, and living His word as a hockey player together! As I was reading this article today at a park, I was moved to speak to a stranger who approached me, and bring up Jesus. As fate would have it, he was agnostic, but maybe a seed was planted and maybe all of his "soil" was not rocky ground! Thank you and keep sharing your gift with us!

Wed, July 27, 2016 @ 3:31 PM

2. Bob Harris wrote:
Jake,
My name is Bob Harris and I help out at First Baptist Marilla, NY. You may have spoken to our Junior High floor hockey league at church last year. I'd like to see if you would be interested in Speaking to our Senior High Boys this year. We may even combine the meeting but not sure yet. I wanted to encourage you in your work and calling. I totally enjoy these little devo blogs and this was is excellent! Even helpful for old hockey players like myself. I appreciate the verses and doctrinal sound theology! Have you hooked up with any hockey pro's in the area current or retired that Love the Lord and share your passion? If you'd like to phone me, my number at home is 716-652-4580. Thanks for your ministry! Bob Harris

Wed, July 27, 2016 @ 7:54 PM

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