When It All Goes Up In—Flour?

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Tom Neven shares about a time when he experienced trouble in a small misadventure. When praising God becomes a habit in small things, it will be automatic when the big things hit.

My wife Colette and I had been married about a year when she went out of town for her sister’s wedding, leaving all the chores to me. One day after grocery shopping, I noticed a puddle of water rapidly spreading on the countertop near a jug of bottled water I had just bought. Discovering a pinprick leak in the bottle, I put it in the sink and set about cleaning up the water.

First, I unplugged the toaster and moved it to the table. Next, I moved the various Tupperware containers. Last was the huge container of flour. Here’s a word of advice: Never carry a Tupperware container by the lid. The container separated from the top, and suddenly a miniature white mushroom cloud rose into the air as 10 pounds of flour rained down on the floor. Aside from the mess, the flour was ruined. How to clean it up? We had a brand new canister vacuum cleaner, so I hauled it out of the closet and set about sucking up the flour. Our one-bedroom apartment was pretty small, so I was in the kitchen with the vacuum hose while the canister body was in the front room.

Here’s another tip: Never ever try to vacuum up flour. It is fine enough to pass through both the vacuum’s filter and bag and out the exhaust. Sucking up the last of the white stuff, I looked with pride at my handiwork. Then I turned towards the living room, where the air was filled with a whitish fog worthy of the San Francisco Bay.

Next tip: Never ever try to clean flour off upholstery by using a wet paper towel. Remember what happens when you combine flour, water, and paper? I soon had enough papier mâché to win the blue ribbon at any grade school art fair. It took hours of painstaking cleaning with a brush and dustpan to finally get the apartment in order.

Now, as far as troubles go, that misadventure is minor. Indeed, we laugh about it even now, more than 30 years later. To put it in the same league as the trials of Job seems at first a gross reach. To think of it in the same way as the Psalmist's laments feels wildly inappropriate. But is that really true? When Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15), it was a statement of complete trust in God's sovereignty, no matter what the circumstances. Psalm 121 (“From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord” [vv. 1-2]) is as appropriate for times of great trouble and for times when your troubles are, well... not so great. We've all heard sermons on trusting God through great trials, but where does it say that is the only time we should lean on Him? Why not pause and remind yourself of this truth when you burn dinner or crunch your fender? After all, when praising God becomes a habit in small things, it will be automatic when the big things hit. 

Epilogue: Even though I thought I'd done a thorough job in cleaning up, for months afterward any time someone flopped down on our couch they were greeted by a fine white puff of flour.

Written by Tom Neven

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