In preparation for Children's Church, I decided to work the puzzle to have the answers and be able to give the kids some "hints". I didn't expect a puzzle designed for 3rd-5th graders to take me 45 minutes! As I struggled and then remembered my old "tricks" from when I worked puzzles regularly, I thought of all the reasons kids are much better at them than adults.
I'm not talking about memory loss or the results of aging. Specifically I'm thinking of the concentration required! I wanted to scan over the letters and quickly pull things out. As long as I could, I avoided going line by line to look at each letter, select the "J", and see if there was a "u" nearby to find the word "Judah". But I only found 2 words in my scattershot approach, and quickly went back to the basics.
As I sat there wishing I had an answer sheet, I thought about why I quit doing puzzles. I loved them even into adulthood and used to spend hours on one logic problem. But the realities of work and life intervened, and I moved onto different priorities.
And yet, I've decided there are lessons to be learned from working puzzles. As adults, we get so involved in Very Important Things that we forget sometimes the simplicity of looking for something basic. I had to remind myself repeatedly that looking for that J was relevant to God's kingdom since it was helping prepare me for the next day! Isn't that like ministry? Don't we get so focused on The Big Picture, seeking to do The Important Thing, that we lose sight of the "small" things that are necessary for kingdom work?
Kids often tend to focus on those smaller things ... the lesson in front of them tomorrow will be relevant and they won't be searching for "deeper meaning". The smallest things are big to kids ... working a worksheet at school well can become a source of pride and joy when mom and dad brag on them. Never mind that the lesson was simple and other kids did harder work ... they worked hard, succeeded, and mom and dad were proud. Surely part of having the heart of a child is to be able to concentrate on something small and consider it as something big ... to rest in the basics and trust God to provide the deeper meaning ... and enjoy God's pleasure at a job well done.
Yesterday, I read a column that addressed this issue from the perspective of worship. As adults we get so caught up in details that we sometimes miss the big picture of what worship really is. Tony Woodlief captures this contrast beautifully:
Do you ever wonder what the service in Heaven will be like? I suspect we’ll all of us be surprised, except perhaps the children, the at times clapping, napping, dancing, babbling, solemn, curious, out-of-tune children. They’ll probably fit right in. The rest of us will have to pay attention from the back pews for a while, and likely unlearn a good bit of that which we once held certain. (see http://www.worldontheweb.com/2008/01/11/the-enduring-church/)
When the Important Work of ministry gets overwhelming, get back to basics. Spend time on some small, seemingly tedious ministry task, and ask God to help you see its significance. It's a good reminder that sometimes we make things so complicated, with such grandiose plans, when all God wants is for us to search for J's in a children's puzzle and prepare our hearts to love on kids.