A Puzzled Perspective

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I love games and puzzles.  Even more, I love observing others, as they play games or puzzles. There is something about it that tells me more of the core of a person–not the outer layers of every day. It helps me to understand them–and love them as the person that they are, not the outer shell. You can be sure, if we have ever played a game or worked a puzzle together, I was observing you.

So it should come as no surprise that when my Chris and I had the opportunity to work with the youth group over ten years ago, we set about to teach a lesson in team-work involving puzzles. We set them up, in a way, for responding to their environment. Also, we observed those responses, bringing it around to the focus point of the timed-activity.

Here are the four scenarios:

Team one had a puzzle and the correct picture that went with the puzzle.

Team two had a puzzle and the correct picture that went with the puzzle–but it was missing a few pieces.

Team three had a puzzle and the incorrect picture for that puzzle.

Team four had a puzzle and no picture.

We set the timer for 20 minutes and told them to work together to complete their puzzles. What do you think the outcome was?

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Team one went right to work, speaking with one another a little, focused on the picture and puzzle pieces and working very quickly. They finished their puzzle with time to spare. They chatted on a very surface-level of conversation.

Team two did the same, working silently at the beginning, focused on the picture and puzzle pieces and progressing quickly. However, about midway, they discovered that they couldn’t find some edges or obvious-colored pieces. They began to dialogue about it.  They were slightly frustrated to have an incomplete puzzle at the end. They spoke just beyond surface-level conversation.

Team three started to work with the same intensity and eagerness to finish as the first two teams.  However, it wasn’t five minutes before they realized that the picture didn’t correspond to the pieces they were filtering through. Oh they interacted alright.  They were downright angry with us.  Disbelieving that we would be so unfair, as to give them a puzzle with the wrong picture! They talked it through and nearly finished the puzzle.  They were fuming at us. They spoke a level or two beyond surface-level conversation. They even told stories of their own lives.

Team four realized up front that they had no picture, so they set to working together, using the cues the colors and pieces provided.  They talked and interacted the whole time.  While a little sad they had no picture, they seemed to take it in stride.  They worked around the difficulty and even had laughter, as they worked together.  They also did not finish in twenty minutes, but they actually made more headway than team three. They shared at the deepest level of conversation.  Their stories created interaction and laughter.  They acted like a team.

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So what was the point? Holly missed her management classes and psychology experiments from college? No.  Not really, though there was certainly an undercurrent of both topics.

One point was for a team to work well together, they worked best when they interacted with one another, trusted in and relied on one another’s help. To complete the task quickly, however, these teams all needed the correct blueprints to be successful. But the blueprints alone did not create a team.

Another point was that when our blueprints are incorrect, we get frustrated, because we are relying on false teaching/direction. This, too, shows how our human nature relies on what our eyes see and how we long for direction. When we don’t have the wrong picture, but rather no picture at all (like team four), we rely on clues and one another. It is not as frustrating, because our expectation is not for a picture, but for one another to step up and work together.

Also, we spoke of how not being able to finish something is very frustrating.  We have an enemy of our souls, the prince of this earth, who strives to remove pieces to our puzzles every day. Again we find that people working together, along-side one another, as a team, provides stability and even joy in the midst of our hardships.

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To end the story, I want to urge you to build wisely with others. Use the blueprints, the Bible, to build and carry out the calling God has on your lives. But the Bible alone will not do it.  God calls us to work in-tandem with others, to be equally yoked in our building, to communicate, to battle the stealing and lying enemy and to keep our focus on the goal, using His Blueprints.

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:25 NIV

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

We’ll be studying this a bit more over the next couple of months.  I have some questions burning in my heart about what it means to build, with whom shall we build, how do we hear God and obey Him, and finally, what does it mean to put our hands to the plow and not look back. Come along!  It’s going to be life-changing.

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