I spent some part of the Holiday break working on two jigsaw puzzles at home.
One was a picture of places that are to be found in Northern California and the other was a picture of the places one celebrates in Southern California.
They were not particularly difficult puzzles: 500 pieces. The fact that i was actually sitting and doing a puzzle is quite remarkable and is owing to my recent conversion to the joy of puzzles.
As a youth, receiving a jigsaw puzzle as a gift was akin to having to make a trip to the dentist. I found both to be painful. With regards to puzzles I simply was not wired to spend countless “hours” looking for a piece of a piece of a picture. It did not involve enough movement and action for me.
I am certain there was a feeling of reward with the completion of the picture, but that could not compete with the experience of scoring a goal playing hockey or throwing snowballs at passing cars. The fun stuff of winter in New England.
My recent conversion to jigsaw puzzles might be the result of age and the the quest for more moderate activity. It could be a way to find an activity that involves other people as an antidote to the the isolated and singular activity of the internet.
But, this conversion – like many conversions – may have a spiritual story behind it.
Over the course of my own spiritual journey I have become aware that the quest to discover or understand the nature of God is akin to piecing together a large puzzle. An eternal puzzle. The more pieces of the puzzle you can discover and put together the more of the picture of the nature of the Divine one can discover.
Where does one find these puzzle pieces?
In my tradition, there are stories about creation that invite us to consider that each piece of the creation contains a part of the Divine. So, for our puzzle analogy one could say that each piece of the creation contains a part of the puzzle and the more pieces of the creation you examine and can place together the larger a picture one has of the Divine.
In our historical context the piece of creation that we engage the most is other human beings. As pieces of the creation each human being therefore contains a piece of the divine nature. Each human being carries a piece of the puzzle.
So, the more I spend time engaging with others, the more time I spend relating to others, the more time I listen and empathize and hold others, the more I have the opportunity to discover the divine nature that is present within them.
The more persons I have relationship with, the more pieces to the puzzle I discover.
And if I step back and with patience and commitment begin to place those individual pieces together, a picture begins to emerge that is no less than the image of the nature of the Divine.
Each person is a unique piece to the puzzle.
So, what has this to do with working a jigsaw puzzle over Christmas? Well, if my life journey has in part been learning to have the patience to put together a puzzle of the nature of God, surely it has taught me the patience to face 500 pieces of cardboard.