Jigsaw Puzzles

I don’t know how old these puzzles are, but I’d guess that jigsaw puzzle metaphors are nearly as old as the puzzles themselves. People are always “putting the pieces together” or saying something like “all the pieces fit,” etc. The picture appears, enlightenment occurs, or an epiphany is experienced.

A jigsaw puzzle a good time-killer, patience-builder, and perseverance exercise. I see them in nursing homes a lot. They sharpen cognitive skills and improve manual dexterity. Plus, they can be completed alone; one doesn’t need companions or fellow gamers. They’re popular with old people. And that’s probably why I’ve taken to them now. The only difference is that I complete them on an iPad. Every morning, right after morning prayer, I turn to the daily jigsaw puzzle. And I noticed a few things:

You complete the border first. Whether your puzzle is small or large, what you’re doing when you complete a puzzle is bringing order to chaos. And the first step in that process is to set boundaries, limits, laws, rules, edges. You may also call these conventions or traditions. What you may not do is disregard them, consider them irrelevant, or attempt to complete the puzzle without them. Eventually, they will rule whether you like it or not.

Every single piece has its place. Regardless of how un-matching it appears or how misshapen, it has its place. And it’s absolutely necessary. Its place may be beyond your view at the moment but it will appear, sooner or later. Don’t get obsessed with finding its place; work on what you have and at the right time, the piece will fit perfectly in the place designed for it.

If a piece doesn’t fit, set it aside. You may notice that those pieces which surprisingly don’t fit are usually those you were so sure of. The more often that happens, the more quickly you learn that certainty about your judgment may need to be modified. You make fewer mistakes then.

There are no missing pieces. A piece may indeed be lost, but it doesn’t not exist. You just haven’t found it yet. Keep looking, especially at those pieces that appear unlikely. There are no mistakes in the puzzle. You must have faith in the designer of the puzzle.

And that’s the most important thing: No one assembles a puzzle of a blank, empty page. When the puzzle is completed, it will actually be something. It will not be nothing.

Sit down, armed with patience, with faith in the designer, and a willingness to submit to the design. Then assemble the pre-cut border and begin. Take your time. Don’t force anything. Real order arises from chaos; it is never imposed on it: Your purpose is not to create the design but to discover it.

I have come to see my daily jigsaw puzzle as a continuation of my morning prayer.

Dena Hunt
Dena Hunt is the author of the award-winning historical novel Treason (Sophia Institute Press), and The Lion’s Heart (Full Quiver Press), as well as several short stories and reviews, online and in print, at Dappled Things, StAR, and The Pilgrim Journal. She also writes for FaithCatholic, a liturgical publication company. She is currently working on her third novel. She is the book review editor of St. Austin Review.

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  1. Many thanks! One of my favorite contemplative past-times as well.