It is amazing to me how much can be sparked in my thoughts from one weekend at Village Creek Bible Camp. On top of quality sharing, I had several conversations with a number of people over the course of the 48 hours that I was there. Some of these conversations were deep and meaningful; others were light and filled with laughter. Oddly enough, some of the conversations that were the funniest have left a deep impression on me and have kept me thinking.
On Saturday night, the conversation that I had around the table during the chocolate wonders snack focused on Heinz Ketchup. Some people at the table have a deep devotion to Heinz Ketchup while others prefer to purchase whatever is on sale when the need arises. This spiraled into a conversation about brand names versus non-brand names in a variety of foods including macaroni and cheese. This then led to whether or not fat free at the risk of losing taste was a good idea in dairy foods. Everyone had a firm belief in their perspective and felt that they were right for thinking their way. We laughed a lot!
My daughter has a ketchup phobia. I do not know where this came from, but I do know that it impacts her life on a regular basis. In fact, she even struggles with washing dishes at camp when the meal calls for ketchup use. The nicest co-workers will take her dish-washing duty for her when this occurs or at minimum come into the dish room and spray off the ketchup.
The interesting thing about the conversation was what was at the core values behind each of the arguments. Those who felt that cost was the primary factor in purchasing items were very firm in the conviction of this way of thinking. Those with a deep devotion to brand names of ketchup or macaroni and cheese were equally firm in their conviction claiming that cost should not be a factor. They asserted that the difference in cost could be seen in the difference (loss) of quality. An interesting thing from this conversation that one person will purchase off-brand ketchup but has to purchase Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Because we were talking about food, I would assert that either set of beliefs can be argued and a true victor will not appear. However, there are other areas where cost versus quality should be considered. When we cut costs and give up quality to save money, we sometimes lose. This is evident is much of the mass produced office furniture made of particle board rather than real wood that has filled cubicles across the nation. I am not condemning particle board itself, but no one can deny that desks made from particle board are of a poorer quality than those made of solid oak or cherry wood.
It might not be that big of a deal (to some people) to buy an off-brand of ketchup, but it is a big deal if we settle for second best in other areas in our lives. Settling is something that I think we need to combat in our country. We cannot allow mediocrity to take over our country, our families, or our personal lives. I can settle for an off-brand of macaroni and cheese in order to save twenty cents, but I cannot allow my children to settle for anything less than the very best that they can do. They need to pursue excellence.
An area where I see a whole lot of settling going on is in our relationships with others. The place where this is the most dangerous is in any marriage relationship. As the divorce rate has increased, many people stand around with questioning faces – why is this happening? It is happening because we are not working hard and well at making our marriages work. Marriage takes two. There is no doubt. And when just one of the two is settling for less than a Heinz or Kraft approach to the marriage, disaster occurs. When both people in the marriage see the need to be the very best spouse, put the other’s needs before their own, and devote time and energy (both emotionally and physically) to the marriage, it can be done well.
As I go about my spiritual, family, work and personal life, I need to consider the question: am I pursuing excellence or am I settling for an off-brand of ketchup? I hope that I can honestly say that I want the very best in every area of my life … just like some people see Heinz as the very best ketchup.