Image for Creating Order in the Chaos: Lessons From a Jigsaw Puzzle

Creating Order in the Chaos: Lessons From a Jigsaw Puzzle

Photo of Kurt BuhrKurt Buhr | Bio

Kurt Buhr

Kurt has always found the intersection of faith practical life interesting, translating theological truth to the messy real world. With an aerospace engineering degree from Iowa State University, he has applied this to his work as an engineering manager in the aerospace & defense industry. As a husband to his beautiful wife Bobbie and father to two children, Jamon and Elizabeth, Kurt loves to learn, explore, see others’ perspectives, and collect experiences. Kurt believes any week gets better if it includes drinking good coffee, going for a long run, playing the piano, and helping some see how the truth of the gospel makes their life better.

We can learn important steps for finding order in the chaos of daily life by doing a jigsaw puzzle.

I recently restarted a very spiritual discipline: putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There is something inexplicably enticing about laying out the fractured pieces, memorizing the subtle nuances of the completed image on the box, and patiently assembling the shattered visage. This pleasantly addictive hobby can absorb my attention for hours as I stave off my family with pleas of “just one more piece!”

Like anyone who is not clinically insane, I always start by singling out the border pieces and establishing the frame. Next is the association of like colors, honing in on a specific section like a bright yellow house or the tiger’s head. Momentum builds as the pieces snap into place and the full image appears, leading to the euphoric exhale as my thumb presses the final unnatural shape into its rightful place and completes the puzzle.

“Like our Creator, our desire to bring order from chaos is strong.”

The allure of a jigsaw puzzle pulls at us from a very primal place. Like our Creator, our desire to bring order from chaos is strong. The creation account in Genesis chapter 1 poetically records this. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2).

Into that disarray, God speaks. Like a puzzle master, he begins by creating borders, distinctions, boundaries. He focuses on different areas, creating beauty and collecting things according to their kinds. As if powering through a jigsaw puzzle, God brings clarity to a fractured and muddled picture. This virtuoso performance concludes with the final “snap” of adding humanity into the picture, followed by a satisfied sigh of “very good” from the master Creator.

“Perhaps now as much as at any time in the past, our lives often feel like chaos.”

Perhaps now as much as at any time in the past, our lives often feel like chaos. The concepts of order, rhythm, rest, and satisfaction seem pleasant but naively distant from our struggle to survive the day-to-day body blows from the real world around us. Now may be the time to pull a few of the lessons our Creator–and a jigsaw puzzle–can teach us.

  • Create distinctions. Clarify what the real problem is. What is the real cause of the tension in your life? God’s first step was to shed light on what he was going to do. Step one for a jigsaw puzzle is to look at the picture on the box. Before solving anything, spend a few minutes determining what is driving the chaos and disorder in your life.
  • Establish firm boundaries. What do you need to say no to, at least for a season? Do you need to cut out a hobby or a child’s activity? Does your phone need an earlier bedtime than yours? Should you decline a good business or volunteer opportunity that does not align to your core focus?
  • Focus on one area. Approach the problem in steps. The bright red barn pieces usually get singled out and constructed first. Choosing an easy place to start is no shame, and it builds momentum. Just select one area to start, and take action each day.
  • Rest and reflect. As you make progress, build in a regular rhythm to not only rest as our Creator modeled, but also reflect on the progress you are making. There may always be more to do, but take time to acknowledge positive steps with, “It is good.

As people made in the image of our Creator God, we are designed to find immense satisfaction in a job well done, creating beauty and restoring order to the brokenness in and around us. Let’s embrace that challenge in our life, one jagged piece at a time.