Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Solving Life’s Puzzles

Life Lessons in Solving a Rubik's Cube

[This is meant to be a visual demonstration. Imagine me standing in front of a class or at someone's door and speaking text similar to this while solving the Rubik's cube. My plan is to go door to door and use this as a "gimmick" or hook to get people interested in a Bible study. Constructive comments are certainly welcome.]

Life offers us many puzzles to solve. In fact, our life in its entirety may be seen as a puzzle. We have to know how all the pieces fit together or what moves to make to get to the solution. Remember the Rubik's cube from the early '80s. It was very popular for a while and one of the most popular puzzles of all time. If you look past the initial insanity of trying to solve the Rubik's cube you find that there is an easy shortcut to solve it. Turning one of the faces diagonally and applying the proper lateral force will allow you to disassemble the cube and reassemble it in the proper order. This is what's known as cheating. Another cheating method is to simply remove the stickers from all the faces and reapply them in the proper order. This would fall under the life motto of "The ends justify the means" which a civilized and moral culture should disavow. While this method gave me a slight sense of accomplishment as a child, I still hadn't solved the puzzle. Recently, my brother-in-law visited and showed me that it doesn't take a nuclear engineer to solve the Rubik's cube, just some time in an airport and a decent set of instructions (I'm sure the fact that he is a nuclear engineer helped too). His playing with the cube revitalized my interest and the next week I set out to master the puzzle myself.

Now some people are enough genius to come up with a solution on their own, but I was not one of them, neither are most people. So for me, when I decided that I wanted to solve the cube, I had to seek external wisdom. So I went seeking for some expert guidance on solving this puzzle. In life, we can muddle our way through and try to figure things out on our own. But what we end up with is just as mixed up as the cube when I would sit and fiddle with it for a few minutes making random moves or trying to keep the colors together.

It's fairly easy to solve portions of the cube with just a little fiddling. You can make a cross or an 'H' on one side or even solve one side by making it all the same color. The difficulty comes in when you need to know how to move the pieces in such a way as to solve the rest of the faces while maintaining the current order. Often the goal is to switch two pieces or move one piece to a certain location without disturbing the existing solution. Of course to do this, for a while you have to break up the order you have made. Then you have to put it back together. Moving one piece into the correct place can be as many as 10 moves of the cube faces once you near the end. However at the beginning, it is anywhere from 2-6 moves. As the amount of order in the cube increases, it becomes more difficult to maintain that order. In life, we start with basic teachings. We teach our children right from wrong. We teach them to be nice, to share, to be polite, to obey the rules, etc. As we progress in life, things get more complicated, and it takes a more complicated set of moves to maintain the order in our lives.

Often when I'm solving the cube, still being the novice that I am, I'll make a wrong move or forget where I am in the series of moves. Sometimes I realize this and remember exactly what I've done and can undo the problem and start again. Most of the time, I end up with a cube that looks not much better than when I started. It's times like these when I have to go back to the center. The method for solving the cube that I use involves starting by solving the white face first. The white face always stays on the bottom and serves as the reference point or foundation for the solution. It's very important to have a foundation in our lives. It is this foundation, this center, to which we must return when our lives become hopelessly scrambled. If I were to try to figure out how to fix the cube without this center, I would never get anywhere. By building on a foundation and building up the cube one layer at a time, I can always be assured of reaching the end. Not because of how smart or dexterous I am, but because I'm following the plan laid out by the expert. One thing about starting over is that it is never as bad as it seems. At first glance, I think I'll have to start from scratch, but when I get the foundation back in place, the rest of the pieces are often right where I left them.

What better expert for our lives than the one who made all things. Almighty God has given us his instruction book for life. He made the universe and all that is in it. He knows how it works. He knows all the twists and turns I will have to make to successfully reach my final destination in life. If I follow His plan, and build my life on his foundation, then I can work my way up the cube. When I fall or take a wrong turn, I am not lost for I have that foundation to return to and start over again.

Please don't think I'm trying to say that life is a series of legalistic moves or that Christianity is a set of rules that you must follow to get to the final destination of heaven. But there is a plan, a series of instructions provided by the Creator. In essence He is saying, "Here's how I want you to live. If you follow my plan, you'll make it to the end." He even provided the perfect example for how to live by coming to this earth Himself, in the form of man, and living a perfect life. He did this to provide a pattern for us to follow, but also to provide encouragement for us. We have a God who knows what it's like for us because he was one of us.

So many of life's problems would not be problems if we would just follow God's plan from the beginning. Even better, when we mess up, His word provides solutions for how to get back on track.

In solving the Rubik's cube, I recently fulfilled a dream from my childhood. It's one that I thought was long gone (kudos to my bro-in-law for inspiring me to do this). My adult dream is to see my children grow up and be faithful servants of the Lord and strong leaders in His kingdom. God's word provides plenty of instruction for making this happen and most of doesn't have to do with how my kids act, but with how I act.

Caveat #2: Those familiar with the Rubik's cube will know that there are different methodologies for solving the cube each with their pros and cons. This is where the analogy must end for there is only one way to the Father and that is through his Son, Jesus Christ. Many other religions and ideologies claim to have the answer to life's problems and to some extent they are beneficial in this life. But only Christ provides the necessary forgiveness and grace that is our salvation.

In closing, life is hard and complicated. We need instructions. We have those instructions. See for yourself. Pick up a Bible and study God's plan for all of us. But beware. It's dangerous, for it will change your life if you let it.

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