TOBI BENTON

Turning Problems into Puzzles

Turning Problems into Puzzles

Turning Problems into Puzzles

“Do you like to work puzzles?”

I was on my way back after the family run when I met him.

He who was hot, angry, and determined not to do anything more than walk silently beside his father.  I took the Hand-off by the hand and said, “come walk with me.”

“Do you like to work puzzles?”

I had watched him take a short-cut.

He, whose pride dictated he must be out ahead of me and his little brother to feel good about himself.  Watched his tiny white face in the distance turn against the backdrop of far-away green trees, looking over his shoulder to see if I could see him.  I met him in the kitchen, stemmed the leaking of did-you-catch-me boasts, filled two water bottles and said, “come walk with me.”

We have our share of problems around here.  Conflicts between siblings, failures in follow-through, and parents who replay old recordings from childhood, all of us wearing the shame of our short-comings.

And who does not fall short?  In conflict, we revel or we recede.

I want my boys to learn something beyond their nature.  I want them to be engaged during conflict.  I want them to fight through it, because the people they are in conflict with are worth fighting for.

Every winning fight has a strategy.  I have turned our problems into puzzles.

I asked each one of them questions about puzzles.  Turns out they both like them.

Word puzzles.  Math puzzles.  Board puzzles.  Spatial puzzles.

They enjoy the challenge.  They don’t mind the frustration.

I asked how the feel about puzzles.  And they looked at me strangely.  Who feels about puzzles?

Which word do you associate with puzzles?  Positive or Negative?

Positive.

What do you use to work a puzzle?  Your mind or your emotions?

My mind.

Which word do you associate with problems?  Positive or Negative?

Negative.

What do you use first to work a problem?  Your mind or your emotions?

My emotions.

Can you solve a puzzle using your emotions?

No.

I do not deny having been created with a mind to think and a heart to feel, and the remarkable beauty of these intertwined to share real life with others.  But I think the easy path is to feel first and try to solve with our fragile hearts what demands the work of a diligent mind.  Our thoughts become the sum of our feelings.

What if everything we see as a problem, the things that have primed our hearts with a first-reaction of fear, what if these are simply well-planned, thought-provoking puzzles to be solved?

What if we defused conflict before it began by trusting that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:27-29 

What if conflict became a positive puzzle to solve instead of a negative problem to revel in or retreat from?

He did not want to run today.  So I encouraged him to work a puzzle instead.IMG_0372

 

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