“Mom, did you know there’s a moldy cake in that cake thing on top of the china cabinet?” I looked up at the cake saver, a decorative clear glass dome on a pedestal, and sure enough, it was displaying the last slice of my son’s birthday cake, splotched with blue-green fuzzy mold. After it was brought to my attention, I remembered having put it up there after the party to keep our megadogs from knocking it over to get to the chocolate orgy inside. Although I was somewhat concerned about preventing the dogs’ overdosing on chocolate, I was more intent on keeping the cake saver intact. I promptly forgot all about it until my daughter came home from college for the weekend (several weeks later) and noticed it. I was glad it was a family member who called it to my attention and not someone else.
I now have to take back all the snarky thoughts I’ve entertained over the years concerning my husband and the birthday cake in the trunk in the trunk. When my husband was a freshman in college, his mother sent him back to school with the uneaten portion of his birthday cake. He had his father’s trunk from his stint in the National Guard in the trunk of his car and put the cake in there for safekeeping. On the drive from San Angelo to Abilene, he completely forgot it was in there. His birthday is in late March, so the cake remained in the trunk in the trunk until he went home for the summer, something like seven weeks. It’s one of the family stories that has been repeated gleefully (and with snarky smugness on my part) ever since. But now I’m a cake offender, too.
As I pondered how I could have done such a thing, I was reminded of a few similar incidents in my past that involved other foods. When I was in college, I bought a whole coconut on a whim while grocery shopping. I had no idea of how hard it is to get inside a coconut. I tried banging it with a hammer, which dented it a bit but didn’t crack it. I then tried to drive a nail into it, which I thought would eventually make it possible to pry it open somehow. That didn’t work either. It kept rolling around as I tried to hit the nail. I believe I did more damage to my fingers than I did the coconut. I don’t remember how the coconut ended up in my car, but it did, and there it remained, under the seat, until the odor of rotting food reminded me of its existence. Perhaps two years later, when my husband and I were renting our first house, I bought a carton of eggs that had a slightly cracked egg. Money was very tight for us, and I’m stubborn. I didn’t want to waste that egg, so when I unloaded the eggs from the foam carton they came in to the built-in egg holder in the refrigerator door, I put the slightly cracked egg in there, too. I didn’t realize that the egg white would seep out of the egg and glue the eggshell to the plastic egg cup, making it impossible to remove the egg later without breaking it. So for a reason that is as unfathomable to me now as why I carried the coconut back to my car rather than just throwing it in the trash, I left the cracked egg in the egg cup until it was time to move out of the house. Then I realized my folly, because we had to clean the refrigerator in order to get our deposit back. By that time, the egg was rotten. It was one of the nastiest and most difficult things I’ve ever had to clean. From the egg incident I learned to always check inside the egg carton before putting it in the shopping cart; I also learned that egg whites are one of the strongest natural adhesive bonds in all creation.
While I can attribute the coconut and egg disasters to my inexperience, the more recent moldy cake showcases a more alarming tendency. I walked past the china cabinet many times every day after my son’s birthday party. I never looked up there to notice that cake. Nor did my husband. Nor did my children who are in the house a lot. My daughter who lives in another town saw it. Why did none of us look up there to notice it? I can take several lessons from it.
First and least important, we should get an objective third party to proofread things for us. When we proofread our own writing, our mind frequently sees what we intended to write rather than what’s actually there. Since I didn’t expect to see a decomposing cake up there, I didn’t.
Spiritually speaking, we should look up, not down. When we look at our feet all the time we can’t see God. Of course, God doesn’t really have a location. When the Bible tells us to look up, it’s a metaphor, and it was understood as a metaphor even to the ancients. But it’s a very good metaphor. Looking down is associated with depression and defeat, both literally and metaphorically. We should look up often because that’s when we can see solutions to problems, and we can see that God is there. When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, he looked up and saw the ram. When the Syrian army came to kill Elisha, he prayed for Gehazi’s eyes to be opened, and he saw the angelic army on the mountain (above).
Also, we shouldn’t take our blessings for granted. The china cabinet is something I inherited from my maternal grandmother, and I treasure it. At least I thought I did. I apparently didn’t really look at it appreciatively for weeks. In its familiarity, it was relegated to the same status as the trash can. We should take the time to really look at the blessings God has bestowed upon us and give thanks for them regularly. I once heard in a sermon, “What if the only things you wake up with tomorrow are the things you thanked God for today?” In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he describes the “perilous” end times; one of the hallmarks of that era will be widespread unthankfulness. We can take a stand for God just by being thankful.
Finally, we shouldn’t let the familiar blind us to developing problems. We should examine ourselves regularly so as not to “neglect so great a salvation.” My pastor cautions against excessive “navel gazing,” but we should look at our habits occasionally to see if we’re headed somewhere it would be better to avoid. People who weigh themselves frequently are more likely to stay near their desired weight than those who don’t. People who examine their hearts regularly are less likely to go off track.
I’ve dealt with the moldy cake, both physically and metaphorically. Both were unpleasant jobs. Physically speaking, I’ll probably wash the cake saver multiple times before using it again. I’m so glad that my spirit has already been cleaned up. For those of who have been Christians a long time, it’s easy to forget the wonder of salvation and grace and to feel neglected by God when everything isn’t going as we would like. But we should always keep them in the forefront of our minds–they’re too precious a gift to let them get moldy.