Ministry of the Puzzle

by Dorian Watson, M.A.

My dad loves jigsaw puzzles, especially ones with 1,000 or more pieces. He recently bought several for us to put together as a family. As we worked on them, I noticed that more than putting the pieces into place, my father enjoyed watching his children check the design, locate the correct pieces, and work together to complete the task. I couldn’t help but make the correlation to my heavenly Father who works the same way in my life.

Recently, my life has really felt like a puzzle. I am able to identify many of the pieces, but I don’t feel like I’m making much progress at assembling it. When I began working on the literal puzzles with my dad this year, I noticed there was a process of construction that helped me to make progress with the puzzle of my life. The more puzzles we put together (five so far), the more they seemed to teach me.

Here are eight things I’ve learned:

Don’t let the number of pieces discourage you. When you open the box of a 2,000 piece puzzle, the volume of pieces can cause a shock. Even though it clearly says there are a plethora of parts to be assembled right there on the box, having them all right there in front of you can make the task look impossible. Resist the urge to flee and start somewhere. (I don’t recommend dumping them all out on the table!)

Start with what you recognize. Many people begin putting a puzzle together by assembling the edge pieces first. The edge pieces are usually easy to identify, and they provide a framework that works as a guide to connect the rest of the interior parts.

Use the references. We are conditioned in school not to look at references so as not to cheat. While that is a great rule for school tests, it doesn’t apply to puzzles. The picture on the box shows you what you are trying to accomplish. Refer to it as often as you need to!

Try it another way. Once you’ve got some pieces together, you can see what additional pieces you need to make more progress. At some point, you will probably come across one that looks right but doesn’t fit. Sometimes you have the right piece, but in order for it to go in correctly, it must be turned another way. Changing the position of the piece can bring clarity on how it goes in.

Missing Pieces. You may be working a section, and no matter how many times you search through the box, you can’t locate the piece that connects the others. It’s a good idea to check the floor to see if it has fallen out of sight. Sometimes though, the piece really is missing.

Go with the flow. I found that some sections refused to come together until other parts were completed. Initially I was very frustrated with that, but I learned to release my desire to finish that part and focus my effort elsewhere until it was the right time to go back.

Receive assistance. While it’s satisfying to say, “I did it all by myself,” having help and sharing the experience makes the process faster and more fun.

Take your time. Puzzles take time. The larger the puzzle, the more time it will take to complete. Set your expectations according to the size of the task and determine to commit the time necessary to accomplish it.

I’m still working on my own life puzzle, but these lessons have helped me be more efficient in the process.

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