“PSLs are a perfect example of the cycles of desire and disillusionment that most of us are familiar with. You get excited about something, maybe a movie or even a relationship, and when you experience it you almost feel robbed. It doesn’t measure up.”

Excerpt from Pumpkin Spice Problems by Matt Civico

Stage one: the challenge

Recently, I was challenged to use the article Pumpkin Spiced Problems on myCravings.ca to engage someone in spiritual conversation. While not particularly empathetic to the article or much anything to do with pumpkins or spice, Jonathan Blunt and I managed to have some fun with the main thrust of the article last week.

Stage two: the awkward idea

“How about we just buy the person a Pumpkin Spiced Latte,” Jonathan said, half-jokingly, “and ask if we can give it to them in exchange for a conversation?”

As awkward as I thought it would be, Jonathan agreed to sell the idea to the person as long as I used my knowledge of the article to engage. So, we went for it.

Stage three: the conversation begins

Brian*, a fourth year chemistry student at the U of G, agreed to chat, and while Jonathan stood in line at Starbucks, I began to explain why we were wanting to have a chat with him.

“I have to use this blog post about the hype of Pumpkin Spice Lattes to talk with someone and get their thoughts,” I explained.

Drawing particularly on this C.S. Lewis quote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world,” I got the conversation rolling.

I brought up the idea that we seem to have longings and standards that inevitably let us down. I shared the idea that these unmet longings seem to point to something more than what everyday life can fulfill.

Stage four: the dialogue

It was the idea of standards that resonated with Brian. The hype of the PSL and many of life’s disappointments paralleled with Brian’s high standards for himself and for others.

“I definitely do have particularly high standards, although I tend to suppress them because I know that me and those around me won’t end up being as great as I’d like,” Brian said.

Eventually Jonathan returned with the latte and after bringing him up to speed, our conversation continued. In the end, Brian seemed to recognize that he couldn’t find a “source” for these higher standards. He believed that their existence demonstrated they must be something beneficial in an evolutionary sense. Shooting for more, whether it was attainable or not, might mean advancement for society.

Stage five: introducing the gospel

Switching gears a bit, when the idea of love came up, Brian realized his family would be there for him even if they wouldn’t meet his standards—and yet he wished he was in no way dependent on them. His desire for self-sufficiency seemed to be a complicating factor, which Jonathan related to.

“I realized it was impossible and led to despair,” Jonathan reflected on his own desires for control. He explained to Brian that instead of despairing over his own insufficiencies, he now rested in God’s sufficient love.

Jonathan and I got the chance to explain elements of the gospel, pointing to satisfaction in God and the “other world” C.S. Lewis argued that we were made for.

Stage six: my take-aways

All in all, the conversation was a very real one where Brian was very open and engaged, even if he didn’t sympathize entirely or understand how a relationship with God could satisfy him.

“When using a new method of any kind, it’s always going to seem awkward at a glance.”

The cool part of our exchange was being able to use the theme of the article to engage someone in a fun way, even though at first I thought it would just be plain awkward.

I found the direct approach most helpful, but I think you can make any approach work if you figure out how to launch the conversation while being honest with whoever you engage. I didn’t use the article itself but rather explained it and its themes, utilizing the C.S. Lewis quote as the key transitional tool. I think you could also engage in a successful conversation by linking a friend to the article and asking their thoughts in a Facebook message.

When using a new method of any kind, it’s always going to seem awkward at a glance. But if you move forward in faith and trust God with it, you’ll probably be surprised how things will turn out.

Stage seven: unexpected holy moments

As we were saying our goodbye’s to Brian after exchanging contact information, Jonathan noticed Brian’s watch—a strangely fancy one.

“Funny story,” Brian smiled, explaining that when his house was robbed just last week, the thief ended up leaving behind his golden watch in the very house he was robbing. By coincidence—or not—Brian had broken his own watch only 2 days prior to that.

“If I was looking for God doing something in my life, this would have been it.”

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