There are a few tasks I perform on a regular basis where, when I’m in the act of performing them, spiritual analogies abound. Weeding the flowerbeds is one. (I don’t do that very often, but when I do, God talks to me the whole time. Mostly telling me I should weed my flower beds more often.) Observing my face in a magnified mirror is another. (I can’t even go there right now, as I have a blemish on my chin that’s been there for about 3 weeks and is about to earn its own place-setting at our dinner table.)
And assembling puzzles? This is a third. And the subject of this post.
I am a methodical puzzle-putter-together-type. I do it the exact same way, every single time, no matter how big or small or the number of pieces. I first dump all the pieces onto the floor or table. Then I flip every piece over to the colored side. Then I separate the pieces into two groups: middles and edges. If I have a lot of pieces (like more than 100), I will line them up in rows, maybe even grouping them according to color as I go. Then I scan the “edges” pile to locate the four corners. I look at the picture on the box—what the finished product should look like—and I place the four corners in the proper place. Then I begin assembling the rest of the perimeter, until it’s completely finished. Then, and only then, can I begin working on the inside pieces. Usually, I start assembling from the edges toward the middle, building on what I’ve already assembled. All the while, constantly glancing at the picture to see where each piece generally fits into the puzzle.
I’m pretty passionate about the way I put together a puzzle. If I try to do it any other way, I sense a disturbance in the Force. Honestly, I just can’t do it. My brain cramps up and I suddenly feel like I’m trying to assemble the space shuttle. Or one of my son’s Lego ships. Which I’m pretty sure are equally as complicated.
I approach life exactly the same way I approach puzzles. Marriage, ministry, parenting, God…in all things, I’m a methodical life-putter-together type. I like to see all my life pieces, organized and sorted into categories. If I can’t find a category for something, I create a new category called “Things I don’t understand.” I need to know my boundaries (Biblical, time-related, relational) before I begin anything. I need to build on what I already know to be true and foundational in my life. I must see the big picture, constantly—how each piece fits with everyone else’s pictures and into the eternal picture. I especially need to see how the picture will all look when it’s finished.
My daughter Elliana (age 4) approaches puzzles quite differently. She opens the box, picks up a piece and examines it. Then she starts digging through the box looking for other pieces that look like it. If it’s a face, she looks for other face pieces. If it’s a fish, she looks for other fish pieces. She pays no regard to edges or corners, except to the extent they fit into her little picture. Sometimes she will dump the box, but dumping is not mandatory. She can work straight from the box. She assembles all the pictures-within-the-picture without a care as to where they will fit into each other. After she finishes all the mini pictures, then, and only then, will she slide and move the little pictures around to fit together and create the finished product. She usually forgets to look at the big picture and doesn’t really see how it applies to what she’s doing.
Elliana is also very passionate about the way she approaches puzzles. She hates when I start with all the flipping and the sorting. She wants to get right to it without all my puzzle hoopla. We’ve been known to wrestle over an edge piece because I need it for my perimeter and she needs it for her mini-picture. This is when a glass of wine comes in handy for me.
Some people approach life the way Elliana approaches puzzles. They take each piece of life and examine it. Then they look around and gather other related events, building from there. I suspect these people are able to live in the moment more freely than someone like me. They aren’t concerned about the boundaries…they will discover them soon enough. They aren’t thinking about the big picture—they’d rather live out each mini-life-picture as they encounter it, letting it unfold into whatever it will become. They probably have a faith in God that’s a bit more free than mine. My husband is a lot like Elliana. This is also when glass of wine comes in handy for me.
So, I’m curious: which one are you? Are you a Methodical Life-Putter-Together-Type? Or are you a Take-Each-Piece-As-I-Find-It-Type?