“What is the BEST spaghetti sauce?” & other musings about growing in our relationship with God…

Over the next couple of weeks, our church is offering a series of “Marriage Refreshers” with the theme, “GROWING TOGETHER IN…” So far we’ve talked about GROWING TOGETHER IN communication & intimacy. Tonight, (10/13) we’re looking at GROWING TOGETHER IN our relationship with God. This past week at church, I promo-ed the topic; afterwards, someone asked me: “So, what is the best way that my spouse & I can grow together in our relationship with God?” I answered him, tongue-in-cheek: “That’s the wrong question.” And then I explained.

While I was going through my Masters program (the MASL at LIFE Pacific,) I was exposed to TED talks for the 1st time. What an incredible resource – delivered in 20 minutes or less every time. Here’s how it came about: during one of the lectures, our professor asked the question: “What is the BEST way to make a disciple of Jesus Christ?”

And then, he promptly answered himself, saying: “THAT is the wrong question. Find the RIGHT one.” As a part of our homework we were tasked with watching Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk, with the idea that it would help us, in essence, to do exactly that. (That TED talk can be seen HERE. It’s definitely worth the watch.)

In it, Gladwell tells the story of how a spaghetti sauce manufacturer (it was Prego,)  hired a renowned researcher to answer the question: “What is the BEST spaghetti sauce?” After a couple of weeks, their researcher came back & told them: “You’re asking the wrong question… but I think I know the right one: It’s ‘What ARE the BEST spaghetti sauceS?'” The answers his question had garnered were numerous – & far from definitive in determining which 1 sauce reigned supreme. In fact, he found that the sauce 35% of America craved more than any other sauce wasn’t even on the market… (It was the thick & chunky spaghetti sauce, in case you’re wondering.) So Prego took their research & decided to develop several of the best, most craved spaghetti sauceS they could – & in response, their business boomed. When they stopped trying to find the ONE best sauce & instead brought forth SEVERAL of the best sauces, they found they could reach a much broader & more diverse cross-section of the population. (NOTE: Today, Prego has more than 35 sauces available…)

Which brings us back to the original question, albeit modified: “What ARE the best wayS that my spouse & I can grow together in our relationship with God?” And my answer (which is far from all-encompassing,) is, it depends. And, there are probably several ways you’ll find that are very helpful in growing together, in God. Some of the factors affecting how we (individually & as a couple,) learn, grow, & best experience God are:

  • Our personality type. Are you more introverted or extroverted? Sensing or intuitive? Thinking or feeling? Judging or perceiving? And what combinations of the above? (you can take a free, online “type” test HERE)
  • Our learning style. Are we visual (pictures & images)? Aural (sound/music)? Verbal (words/speech/writing)? Physical (hands on/kinesthetic/touch)? Logical (logic/reasoning/systems)? Social (in groups/with others)? Solitary (alone/self-study)? You can find out more about learning styles HERE.)
  • Our primary way(s) of experiencing connection with God. Are we:
    • Naturalists – moved by creation/time outdoors
    • Sensates – experiencers of God with the 5 senses, sights, sounds, smells
    • Traditionalists – find great meaning in ritual, symbols, sacraments, celebration of the ancient practices of our faith (e.g. the Daily Office, Lectio Divina, etc..)
    • Ascetics – don’t need ‘stuff’ – find meaning in solitude, simplicity, & a quiet internal world.
    • Activists – experiencers of God through confrontation of injustice (think Isaiah 58)
    • Caregivers – lovers of God displayed through caring for & loving others.
    • Enthusiasts – experiencers of the mystery & celebration of faith, (think: cheerleaders for Christ & Christ-following.)
    • Contemplatives – experiencers of God through adoration & “being” (think” Mary of Bethany sitting at Jesus’ feet.)
    • Intellectuals – experiencers of God through study, worshiping with the mind through exploring theology, the Bible, & faith concepts.

In a nutshell – for a couple to grow together, in God, both parties will be pursuing their own relationship with God, taking faith steps, spending time with Him in a variety of ways & places. And both parties will also be engaging in their lives together with God as the context in which they do so… relationships are built when we share time & space, with a common focus. So going to church together; having ‘spiritual’ conversations about each one’s own interactions, experiences, questions, & wonderings; participating in a “marriage refresher” & then intentionally taking time to talk through personal & “as a couple” applications, goals, & growth points; engaging with one another in our spouse’s preferred context for connecting with God; all of these are ways we can grow together, in Him. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of possibilities that await…

When both parties are pursuing God & each other – it’s a beautiful thing. And it never grows old.

Preparing for the Spring…

Looking out across the valley, the last rays of sun leap out from behind the Sierras. Dark clouds streak the sky as a whistling wind rises & falls, reminding me that though this is the 1st official day of Spring, Winter hasn’t packed his bags & moved on. Yet.

The tease of the last few warm days have almost wiped away the memory of 2 feet of snow just 1 month ago. The ‘new-ness’ of life that comes with Spring definitely makes me think about change & transition. Wondering what new things are headed my way. What ‘new mercies of the LORD’ are coming towards me? Where am I going to be challenged to grow, develop, & lean into God in a new way…? To be taken beyond what I can see & know to the place of utter dependence. The place of “I don’t know about 2 weeks from now; though I’m fairly sure about today. And I know where to look tomorrow.” If that makes sense.

There is a temptation to stay where I am. In the familiar, the comfortable, the known. The places where my feet have marked a worn path, where I can almost walk with my eyes closed. A place where I feel competent. Strong. Secure.

To me, walking with God means being led. Not being the one in the drivers seat of my life, dictating what I’m doing & where I’ll be doing it; rather, looking for where it seems He’s at work in & mostly around me, & seeing how I can jump in in those spots. It means humility, a willingness to not “know” with certainty the plan for the next 3-5 months, let alone the next 3-5 years. To invite the Holy Spirit to shine a light into my life, even into the dark corners where we’ve hid the dirty laundry, that escapes even the most well-trained eye. But not His.

Practicing repentance. Realigning with God’s purpose, plan, & direction.

Laying down the right to be offended. To put aside (not deny, but not hold onto) hurt feelings. False accusations. A character that has been assassinated yet again, leaving the defense of me to the One who knows me best. Even if it means appearing weak.

The last several months, I’ve been reminded that I need to be planting God’s Word in my life, heart, mind, & spirit. To read, listen to, & meditate upon the Bible. To get it ‘in me,’ so that it can bring about the life God desires for me, & to provide fodder for the Holy Spirit to apply as the Spirit sees fit.

Entering Spring, I reapply myself to the Process, to say “Yes,” to what God has for me & mine in this next period of my life. That His purposes, His mission would be my priority. That love for others would overflow in my life; that I would grow in knowledge & discernment, to know what is REALLY important; to be fruitful in Christ-likeness, living pure & holy in His sight, bringing praise & glory to Him.

Yep. Here comes the Spring. And I’m looking for the new.