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The Gospel According to Essential Oils

The Gospel

I have hesitated to write this for years. My social circles are full of people who use, sell, market, and make a living off of these tiny bottles of “plant juice,” as they’re affectionately called. But, as someone I used to know once said, I love you more than I’m afraid of you. And before you get all up in arms with me, before you roll your eyes and slam your laptop shut in irritation with someone who “just doesn’t get it” or who is overly-sensitive about something that God gave us, I’d ask that you just listen.​ And to listen to what the Gospel says.

And, full disclosure: I am not anti-oils. I have no doubt some of them work. I have a few staples on my shelf that we’ll use for cleaning and clean breathing, for good sleep and cozy baths. I cook with a few. I diffuse others. There’s no better smell to me than a home filled with the scent of cloves, cinnamon, and lemon in lieu of Lysol. ​

I am not against you, friend.

I’m against the golden calf that I’ve seen built in your midst.

I’m passionately for you and your health, and passionately opposed to anything that has the form of godliness and calls for all your gold to fashion it. I’m all for subduing creation and cultivating what God has given to us from the ground to use for our health and body. I also know that this is our tendency as children of God — to be led away from pure and simple devotion to Christ. ​

We have traded the Holy Spirit for bottles of plant juice. We have added to the gospel through smells and scents, and promised those we lead that joy is found in something you apply to your skin and not something that happens to your heart. We’ve said forgiveness is enabled by sandalwood and lavender, and have placed the power of the cross on a back burner, after we’ve diffused some angelica for a bit. ​

We’ve traded the things of heaven for the things of earth. And isn’t this the subtle lie that seeps beneath every contortion of the gospel? The belief that sure, Christ is enough. Yes, he’s sufficient. Of course the Holy Spirit works within us. But maybe we could do our part too to make the magic happen. ​

Some could argue — you take medication, right? How is this any different?

My concern is this: I don’t take Tylenol for my unbelieving heart. I don’t pop an ibuprofen for when I’ve run out of money. Zoloft and Xanax may help your head process thoughts in a more balanced way, but anyone who takes them will also tell you that they are not the ultimate source of joy. The concern is not that they help; the concern is that they’ve become our Helper.  And there’s already one person who has that role and He doesn’t get diffused. You are right in one thing — we were meant to be utterly and completely dependent on something. The error is when we begin to think it comes in a vial.​

I’m worried that the influencers and those who garner a paycheck at the end of the day are first going to hand you a bottle of “Hope” before they point you to the hope of Christ. That when the struggle of life hits your bank account or fridge, you’ll be tempted to diffuse “Abundance” before asking the Spirit for his fruit. And I highly doubt when we read through Hebrews 11, we’re reading about how the heroes of our faith applied an essential-oil blend before they faced the circumstances at hand. (And yes, “Faith” is an option for purchase through one company.)

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Andrea Burke is the Director of Women's Ministry at her home church Grace Road Church in Rochester, NY. She writes and teaches regularly for women. She's married to the quintessential Vermont man, Jedediah, and they are raising two kids in an old farmhouse on a couple of acres outside of Rochester, NY. You can also find more about her at andreagburke.com or on Twitter @theandreaburke.