Puzzles are an interesting form of entertainment. Humans find the need for mental stimulation enticing enough that we actually developed a genre of mind games. A kind of labyrinth was drawn by civilizations in the Mediterranean region at least 2300 BC. And this is just the first surviving example. Our brains were designed to solve problems, to figure things out. Math itself is a kind of puzzle, perhaps more puzzling to some of us than others. The first time a person looked at the sky and tried to figure out what was up there, they began puzzling over it.
Puzzles are great for our brains helping keep them functioning at a high level. But puzzle solving often has an order to it. The more sophisticated the puzzle the more likely it will be that the manner and order of the solution will have a great effect on the outcome or even the likelihood of solving it. Most of us have done this in the most basic form with a puzzle made of images on paper cut into pieces. Ninety-nine percent of us begin by finding the edges and the corners. We then place them and fill in from there.
Life is a puzzle we all try to solve. It is very difficult because one does not start with all the pieces. They are handed out over time leaving us at a distinct disadvantage when we are young. To complicate matters we are not shown the final outcome, the “picture” until we figure it out from having placed enough of the pieces in their proper positions.
One universal law of the puzzle is that we don’t try to determine what the picture is from a single isolated piece. But with life, we try to extrapolate details and motivations with a single piece. Be that a conversation, a promotion, a success or a failure there is just not enough of the puzzle to work with. So, we regularly make bad decisions often concluding that the entire future is described in a single moment.
This is particularly problematic to me when we try to divine God’s intent or plans from a moment. It is troubling because we make eternal decisions not just temporal ones. Deciding a life direction from a single point of reference is bad enough but deciding our eternal direction from so little information is frightening to my pastoral nature.
You give reference to the approximate location of things in puzzle making by what you know to be true. The sky is usually above the land, trees tend to grow up, flesh tone is normally associated with people, etcetera. But placing a single piece of the puzzle without the picture is very hard. You can’t assume to understand the picture in a large complicated puzzle from a single piece though as stated you can generalize the pieces when you have the picture.
Here are the corner pieces for the spiritual life. God is motivated by love. Jesus was God. God loves you so much that He gave his life so you could have the choice to be saved. This world will come to an end and God will reinstate a sinless creation for mankind.
From there we can take each day and generally set it in our personal puzzle, slowly revealing the grand image that God has in mind for each of us. Don’t hurry, get some help particularly from people who are further along with their own puzzles, and remember the corners are the anchors of a puzzle.
God Bless Your Journey,