Pieces on the Path

I enjoy jigsaw puzzles.

I love the challenge of figuring out how all of the pieces fit together to create the picture on the box.  I enjoy the sorting and the arranging.  Most of all, I enjoy that sense of accomplishment when the final piece is put into place and the picture is complete.

I enjoy the puzzle that comes in the box.  However, it’s the puzzle from my iPad app that is more convenient – no pieces to fall on the floor or be eaten by Hank, the dog.  It is no fun to be almost done with a puzzle and realize that there’s a piece that is half-chewed or completely missing.

Usually when Noah and I are watching tv, you will find me also working on a puzzle.  (I think it drives Noah a little crazy that I’m doing several things at once, but why do one thing when you could do two?  Unfortunately, my puzzle work prevents watching any show with sub-titles. Smile.)

Whether it’s a puzzle from a box or a puzzle on the iPad, my usual reaction to beginning a puzzle is:  this is going to take forever!  There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason in the pieces.  They are just a jumble of colors of all sorts.  They look nothing like the picture of the finished puzzle.  However, gradually it comes together.

My plan of puzzle solving:

  • First put together all of the edges to make the frame.
  • Sort the pieces by color.
  • Look for commonalities.
  • Refer to the picture.
  • Look at the shapes of the pieces.
  • Refer to the picture.
  • Try a piece.  If it doesn’t work, try another piece.
  • Refer to the picture.
  • Put pieces together in smaller portions.

Piece by piece, color by color – the picture is revealed!

It’s making choices, looking at the whole, being patient, not giving up, looking for common threads – piece by piece, it comes together.

We might even call it discernment.

The word discernment comes from the Latin word “discernere” which means ‘to separate’, ‘to distinguish’.  Reminds me of a puzzle.

In their book, The Way of Discernment, Stephen Doughty and Marjorie Thompson, write:

The word, ‘discernment’, denotes an activity or process. It suggests that when we yearn to find what is right and fitting, there will be a means to do so. On the most elemental level, to discern is to sort and sift through the possibilities when we face a variety of choices. It is to distinguish and separate alternatives. . . From beyond ourselves we begin to hear, ‘Look, there is a way you can follow that leads toward greater understanding. There are steps you can take that will open you to the clarity you seek.’ We stand before the forest of our own wonderings. Then bit by bit, we become aware of a path through the forest.

In discernment, like a puzzle, we see a jumble of possibilities – some good and some not so good.  We sort. We arrange. We look for common threads.  We look at the picture. In discernment, the picture is God’s preferred picture.

Bishop Rueben Job writes “practicing a preference for God and God’s will is the place to begin . . . Begin practicing a preference for God and you will discover a growing capacity to receive and respond to God’s direction of your life.”

It’s sorting, arranging, and choosing the next piece, all with a prayerful spirit, that reveals the path in the midst of the jumble.

**************************

Dougthy, S.V. and Thompson, M.J. The Way of Discernment. Participants Book. Nashville:  TN:  The Upper Room Books, 2003.

Job, R. P. A Guide to Prayer.  Nashville, TN:  The Upper Room Books, 2013.

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