My wife is master of all things culinary. (I gained 30 pounds our first year of marriage.) She is gifted in her ability not just to follow recipes, but also in concocting alternative ways to make things taste good based on her experience, knowledge and willingness to take risks in the kitchen. In our spiritual lives, while we know that following the Good Book is essential in having the kind of outcomes we desire in life, it seems that sometimes the spiritual ingredients and recipes we know just don’t seem to be working for us. Our dishes (times with the Big Guy) are coming out bland and uninteresting.
What’s my problem?
OK, we’ve stated our objective and we’ve gathered our facts (see last two posts). Now, let’s develop a specific problem statement. As we begin step three in our six-step creative problem solving series, let’s continue with the objective we are working on: “Having a real relationship with the Big Guy.” Considering the facts we’ve identified let’s now hone in on a specific “problem.” What is the missing ingredient that’s keeping me from having a real relationship with the Big Guy?
In what ways might I…?
To make sure we are focused on the right problem, let’s use the stem “In what ways might I…?” to clearly state our problem. One tool we may use to do this is the Ladder of Abstraction. So, refer to our 11/27/11 blog post: “Up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction” for detailed instructions on how to do this. Essentially, in the center of a sheet of paper, you will write “In what ways might I have a real relationship with God?” Then, you’ll work your way up the ladder asking “Why do I want this?” – to broaden your perspective – and down the ladder asking “How may I have this?” – to narrow your perspective.
In this step: “Problem Finding,” our aim is to spend focused time considering facts, challenges and opportunities associated with our objective: Having a “real” relationship with God. So following our “recipe” metaphor, it will be like tasting each “spice” that we have discovered in our rack (statements on the Ladder of Abstraction) in order to identify the one we are looking for to cook up a great dish, in this case, a meaningful relationship with the Big Guy. As you move up and down the Ladder of Abstraction, select one of your statements connected to the “why” or “how” questions that, so to speak, tickles your spiritual taste buds.
The Ladder of Abstraction will serve as a kind of kitchen stepstool, helping us to find exactly what it is that’s missing in our recipe, so that we don’t wind up with a “half-baked” relationship with God. Let’s say we find, working down the Ladder, that one of the “spices” that is lacking in the “how” department is a relationship with someone who already has a great relationship with the Big Guy. If I had such a relationship, I could learn how I might better connect myself.
Red-hot chili peppers!
Developing a chef- and chef’s-apprentice type of relationship may be just the spice I need to help kick-start a red-hot relationship with the Big Guy! But how do I do this? In our next post, we’ll follow up on the problem statement “In what ways might I have a relationship with someone who can help me have a real relationship with the Big Guy?”. In step four: Idea Finding, we’ll put on our creative thinking “chef’s” hats to continue our journey towards cooking up a REAL relationship with God.