Monday, January 14, 2019

Your Brain is a Puzzle

Puzzles are puzzling. Some puzzles just take lots of time and effort: a jigsaw puzzle when you have to try every remaining piece in that one spot. Other puzzles take a lot of time, time that seems fruitless, until suddenly your make the right move and voilĂ , the puzzle is solved. It's like that puzzle with two bent nails linked together. It seems like they can't quite come apart. You are tempted to get a vice and a hammer to make them come apart.

But long after you have tried every possible twist and orientation, suddenly, effortlessly, the nails slip easily apart. What could never be done gets done, and you hold the two nails in separate hands. It was that special combination of finesse and gentleness that broke the code. It almost feels magical. You wonder why it ever took you so long to make that obvious move and solve the puzzle.

Your brain is a puzzle. The way you think--your understanding of life and humanity--is missing something. Many somethings. And there is a key to breaking through to real understanding, solving that puzzle of your mind. Logic doesn't help much. Passionate arguments are no good.

The key to solving your brain's puzzle is story. Stories are predictable. I know this from watching my wife watch Hallmark movies. You know who the good guy is. You know what the resolution will be. And you are entertained as the story surprises you on the way to the predictable ending.

But the stories that unlock the puzzle of your brain are different. In these unlocking stories, as the narrative unfolds, you know what is going to happen, you predict the outcome. Only it turns out that you are wrong. It doesn't play out like it's "supposed" to. Your heart is invested in this obvious outcome, and then you are wrong. You have to stop and think, "Wait. Now...what?"

In this off-balance moment, your mind and heart are open to truth. The truth sneaks up on you. It's the gentle move of the nail puzzle that pulls things apart so you can really see. It makes sense of what you knew could not be true. Suddenly you have insights that you never had before, about yourself, about your relationships, about other people, about life. Now you get it.

These stories are called "parables." Jesus tells lots of them. For many of us, our problem is that we know the stories so well that the surprises are all gone. We know how the stories end. We hear them like a Hallmark movie plot. Which means that we probably don't get them at all. If it's just a story to you without a punchline, then you probably are missing the whole point.

Some people say they get the joke, when you know they don't. All too often that's me hearing the parables. I say I get it when I really don't.

Wait. Now...what?