Jigsaw puzzles are the bane of my life. All those thousands of pieces strewn over the table or floor, asking to be arranged in such a way as to construct a beautiful picture. How often I wonder why I didn’t spend the same amount of money on just the picture? Is it some do-it-yourself torture I inflict upon myself that makes me take up the challenge? The frustration is often compounded by a helpful family member, who comes along and in a few moments finds the very piece I have spent half an hour looking for. I am not sure whether to thank them, or deck them!
Many is the time I can remember wrestling over a problem for what seemed like hours, trying to work my way through a challenge or hurdle which appeared insurmountable, only to be aided by someone who has not immersed themselves in the problem in the same way, but points out a way forward, or the problem which is holding me up. That different, somewhat detached, perspective often proves to be an asset.
How easy it is to get locked into a particular way of thinking. To find ourselves painted into a corner with no obvious means of moving forward. The harder we look, the more we find evidence that there is no way forward other than that to which we have set our minds, no matter that we cannot find a way through. It is only as we learn to hear the voice of the outsider, the one who speaks with a fresh perspective, regardless of their ongoing commitment to journey with us.
In the Old Testament, it was often the voice of the prophets which spoke in such a way. Their words often clanged against the prevailing thought patterns, but their fresh perspective proved to be most accurate. It is tempting to reject such “Johnny-come-latelys” as Amaziah the High Priest advised Amos (“Go back where you came from and ply your trade there,” he said). But to do so may close our ears to the very work and voice of the Holy Spirit among us. God often chooses the least likely of voices and people to speak for Him.
When our two eldest children began work on a jigsaw puzzle yesterday, it was tempting to jump in to help them as they struggled to find pieces to get them going. Fortunately I was able to resist. Sometimes we need to struggle long enough with our own challenges before someone jumps in to help solve them.
February 9, 2003