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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.


Stacey is out leading a retreat this week, so I’m holding down the fort here at home with the kids. One of our first tasks was to schedule the treats we’d be making while mom was away. Molasses cookies and chocolate cake have been identified as top priorities.

We started with the cookies tonight and it reminded me of a conversation I was having with friend of mine about sharing in the life of God. She was saying that God could direct our lives towards goodness without our participation, but that we were instead given the gift of freedom so that we might cooperate with God. She used the image of a parent baking with a child to illustrate this.

For example, when I made cookies with the kids tonight, it would have been much cleaner and easier and cleaner and productive and cleaner to simply whip through the recipe on my own. That process wouldn’t have made any memories, though. It was the gooey hands and the licking of the spatula and the spilled sugar that wet fingers gleaned from the countertop that made us all smile. We talked through each step and counted the portions and checked on the oven—all of these small steps built in us a feeling of togetherness.

And sure, the cookies were a bit misshapen. Some of them were stacked on top of each other before baking—so what? I wasn’t shooting for perfect-looking cookies, and they tasted just fine. Better, even, with a glass of milk shared between us.

It is like this with God. We are invited to use our freedom to join our wills to God’s will and to grow towards goodness. God isn’t looking for perfect human automatons—I bet we taste fine to God, too.

Growing towards goodness by surrendering our wills—sounds like a good mission statement for any parent or spouse. I, for one, find that family life continually offers me opportunities to surrender my will. Sometimes it is pulled from me while I kick and scream. Sometimes, like tonight, it is as easy and sweet as eating a warm cookie. Unquestionably, though, it has led me to goodness.

The only response to such goodness is gratitude to God. How else can I account for such goodness? I couldn’t have painted my life so richly: Lucy’s giggles as she lets our dog lick her fingers laden with cookie dough; Simon’s silent but emphatic thumbs-up as he chases warm cookies with cold milk guzzled with loud gulps; Oscar’s ability to eat only one cookie because he’s full and can have more tomorrow.

Who can stop eating warm cookies after just one?

Not I. Tonight, I devoured all of this. I feasted on goodness. I savored every crumb.