I like working jigsaw puzzles. Some of my friends don’t understand why. They say, “You spend hours putting all those pieces together and then you take the puzzle apart again. What’s the point?”
The point is not so much the finished product. The point is the process of putting the puzzle together. There’s something challenging, fun, and even spiritual about searching for a specific puzzle piece, finding it, and putting it precisely where it belongs in the puzzle. If you don’t enjoy that process, you probably won’t enjoy working jigsaw puzzles.
After some reflection, I’ve come up with several reasons why I enjoying working jigsaw puzzles:
1) There is a solution to a jigsaw puzzle—unlike some of the other “puzzles” in life.
2) When working on a puzzle, you see progress no matter how difficult the puzzle may be. You don’t always see progress in the other work you do in life—like raising children, getting an education, growing in the spiritual life.
3) Doing jigsaw puzzles trains your powers of observation and differentiation. At first, all the blue pieces look alike, for instance, but as you study them more closely you begin to see subtle differences in the shades of blue. Hopefully, this honing of the powers of observation and differentiation will carry over into other aspects of our life. We won’t see all teenagers alike, all men alike, all Muslims alike, all lawyers alike, all trees alike. We will grow in differentiating and appreciating diversity and uniqueness.
4) Puzzles teach us patience. Enough said.
5) Every piece of the puzzle is important. If one piece is missing, the puzzle isn’t whole. This reminds me that all the “pieces” of my life are important. And all people in my life are important too. All the “pieces” make a vital contribution to the whole.
6) Puzzles reward us for our labor. Many times I have stood up and been ready to walk away from a difficult puzzle. But suddenly I find a piece that fits, I put it in, and I sit down again to put in “just one more piece.” As the old proverb says, “Nothing succeeds like success.”
7) And finally, there’s great satisfaction when you put the final piece in the puzzle. “Ta Da!” I say aloud even if no one
is around. At our house we often let the completed puzzle sit on the puzzle table for a day or two so we can admire the whole picture. But soon, we’re ready to take it apart, put it in its box, grab the next puzzle, and start all over again.
Working jigsaw puzzles can lead us to prayer:
God of the whole picture, help me to be patient with all the pieces of my life. Develop my powers of observation and appreciation for the subtle differences I see in life—especially in people. Give me patience with all that is “unsolved” in my life. And help me to entrust the final solution of all the puzzles in my life to your unfathomable wisdom and unending love. Amen.
The song for today is “El Shaddai,” written by Michael Card and sung here by Amy Grant. The words “El Shaddai” in English mean God Almighty or Most High One, one of our many traditional names for God.
What are some of your thoughts on jigsaw puzzles? Do you enjoy them or avoid them?
Do you see any other connections between working jigsaw puzzles and living life?
Did any words or phrases from the song speak to you today?