For the past week, my husband and I have been working on a jigsaw puzzle. It was a gift from a friend and since neither of us are puzzle fans, it had been left untouched for a while. I finally decided to open it after a tough couple of weeks where my head and heart have had an exhausting time. Needing some mental and emotional rest, I decided to let my eyes and hands keep busy for a while. My husband decided to join in the fun one evening and now we’re both hooked in spite of how bad we are at it!
There are times in the process that you just need a break from it, and it’s ok to take it!
Both Henry and I are iNtuitives (MBTI®) who are good at seeing the big picture but often miss the details – so doing this puzzle has been both fun and tiring because it’s really hard for us to keep exercising our Sensing (MBTI®) muscles. Yet at the same time, we find that we’ve been sleeping better because doing the jigsaw puzzle in the evenings takes our minds off work and makes it easy for us to spend a couple of hours away from our devices and have fun in restful silence.
Don’t force the process. It makes it so much harder and takes the joy out of the journey. Go at the rhythm that is right for you – and that rhythm may change from time to time.
As usual for me, I’m finding parallels between my jigsaw puzzle experience and my interior journey. I am an impatient person, and one reason I’ve never taken to jigsaw puzzles in the past is because they take too long to finish and require too much attention to detail (which tires me).
I also don’t like the “mess” they make of my living space while it’s in progress. As if that’s not bad enough, there’s so much trial and error – so many times when you think you’ve got the right piece only to try it and discover that it doesn’t fit. It can be so frustrating.
Then there are those moments when inexplicably, you experience a streak. All of a sudden, your eyes keep falling on the right pieces in rapid succession – all of which you find a fit for – and the exhilaration makes you almost forget how slow-going and frustrating it had been just ten minutes ago! And as the larger picture begins to take shape, you marvel at how you’ve been able to come this far even as you know there is still a long way to go to the finish line.
Sometimes it helps to stop working on one area of the puzzle when you’re not making much progress and work on a different part of the picture.
There are many parallels I find in this process with deepening my interior life with God. Here are a few that I’ve been musing on as I work on my puzzle:
- Even if you have a sense of what the finished picture “should” look like, you have no idea how the journey to that end point will be or how long it will take.
- There are times in the process that you just need a break from it all, and it’s ok to take it!
- When you allow yourself to take breaks and return to the task refreshed, it is amazing how you start recognising pieces that were right before your eyes but which you failed to see before.
- Don’t force the process. It makes it so much harder and takes the joy out of the journey. Go at the rhythm that is right for you – and that rhythm may change from time to time.
- Sometimes it helps to stop working on one area of the puzzle when you’re not making much progress and work on a different part of the picture. (E.g. if your prayer life has plateaued in spite of your efforts, maybe work on emotional healing or try a different spirituality or form of spiritual practice in the Christian Tradition instead – there are so many!)
- Having the right person work on the picture together with you can make the entire process more enjoyable. There’s mutual encouragement, you play to each other’s strengths and celebration of progress is always more joyful when there’s someone to share it with. Similarly, spiritual companions (community!) who are working towards the same goal as us can lighten our load and increase our joy in the interior journey.
- Sometimes the going gets tedious and tiring. Other times it’s easy and fun and delightful. Both are inherent parts of the process and a natural experience due to our humanity.
- Messiness and mistakes are part and parcel of the journey. They aren’t bad – they’re part of the creative process! And if we can accept that, we have a much more enjoyable time of making the journey.
My husband and I are now considering jigsaw puzzles as an alternative way of contemplative play. It helps us quieten our busy minds and gives our spirits some much needed rest. And for me at least – working on this puzzle is giving me new insight and important reminders about life and the spiritual journey.
Messiness and mistakes are part and parcel of the journey. They aren’t bad – they’re part of the creative process! And if we can accept that, we have a much more enjoyable time of making the journey!
I never thought I would write a piece about jigsaw puzzles, let alone about finding God in the process of doing one. Then again, if there is one thing you can be certain about walking with God, it is that you can always count on ending up in places you never expect to be in.
Here’s to more ways of finding God in all things, whether we were intending to or not!