We were in the middle of it. The cancer, that is. It was the morning of my surgery to have the catheter placed in my chest, just above my heart. It was the entry point for the chemo drugs and would stay inside me for a year.
That morning, we got up early and prepared for the trip to the hospital. On our way out the door, Sharon realized she’d forgotten her breakfast. She ran back into the kitchen, grabbed some orange juice out of the refrigerator, gave the door a gentle push, and turned out the light. What we didn’t know was that the refrigerator door didn’t close. It stayed open. All day.
The temperature in the refrigerator had climbed to 61degrees by the time we got home. And we began dumping foods that hadn’t survived the heat wave.
After a few minutes, I started feeling the effects of the anesthesia. So Sharon ordered me to the couch, set the frig on turbo cool, and left the kitchen behind her.
But while I was dead to the world, and to all that was going on in the house, Sharon slipped back into the kitchen and confronted the refrigerator alone. After sniffing the milk, she declared it spoiled and tossed it. She kept tossing. And then she noticed something on one of the lower shelves and at the back. It was a can of biscuit dough. And it had exploded. Biscuit dough was everywhere—on the shelf it was sitting on, on the shelf above it, and all over the back of the refrigerator.
It must have exploded while the door was open. And when Sharon came home and adjusted the temperature to turbo cool, the dough hardened. It wasn’t easy to clean. That dough was happy where it was and wasn’t going anywhere.
While I slept, Sharon got on her hands and knees, trying to scrape hardened biscuit dough from the back of the refrigerator.
Sharon’s job is stressful. Add to that a husband—with cancer, who had undergone two surgeries in less than a month—and I’m not sure the word “overwhelming” adequately describes the situation.
While I slept, Sharon cleaned hardened dough from the back of the refrigerator and cried.
It’s an image that still tugs at my heart. I can see her—a sick husband on one side—a stressful job on the other. And in between, exploding dough.
We talked about it later and even laughed a little. And she made the comment that she felt bad for crying over something so small. “I know,” she said, “that exploding dough is the tiniest of events in the scheme of life and eternity.”
“Maybe,” I said. “But you still have to walk through it. You still have to face the stress of work and my illness and even the challenge of exploding dough.”
These seemingly insignificant moments, must be met and overcome. And it’s these moments that define us—that reveal our character—and that push us toward or away from God. These moments can have eternal implications.
Sharon and I made it through. We hung on to God. And to each other. And in the biggest storm of her life, she trusted.
I’ve been thinking lately about my students and the pressures they face. It’s at this point of the semester that many are learning the hard lesson—sometimes, the dough just explodes.
The other day, one of my classes had major papers due. I had talked to the students early on about the importance of having essays completed and ready to turn in when class began. We talked about being prepared for the unexpected. We discussed power failures, and printers that run out of ink, and alarm clocks that fail to ring, and dogs that eat homework—but I forgot to mention locking yourself out of your room 5 minutes before class—which is what happened to one of my students.
And so sometimes, I tell them a story from my life, to let them know they are not alone in the tough times. And I let them know that there’s a way through the exploding dough. Always. God is with us. Each one of us. “Do you believe this?” I ask them. “Do you believe God is good and that He will not give you more than you can bear?”
Sometimes they aren’t convinced. And so I remind them. “Don’t forget,” I say . . . .
“You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength” (Philippians 4:13).
All things, I remind them. You’ve got to hang on to that. Even when the dough explodes.