Guest Author: Dan Williams, Founder of Sports Serve
The Giant Puzzle
I felt overwhelmed and paralyzed by the enormity of the task. This was my mental and physical state as I looked out over the scene. The task was familiar enough. Who hasn’t put a puzzle together? Every Christmas my family works on a puzzle together. It’s a great bonding experience.
But this was different. I was in Orlando, FL attending an International Sports Leadership Conference with 100+ leaders from over 50 different countries. As a part of full day of team building we had all broken into small teams for different activities. Now each team had been given over twenty giant puzzle pieces. The board was the size of a small ballroom. Our task was simple. Together all 100+ of us were to work together to piece the puzzle together.
A few brave leaders jumped to the center with an idea that each team appoint a leader to represent their team and to convene together to develop a plan. Soon decisions were being made. A small group began to shout commands. Each of us on our team began to look around not knowing who was in charge. It was a puzzle we collectively thought. We should just grab a piece and find where it goes.
So our group started. Still shouting from the center were others with competing commands. One person had an idea. Another had a new idea. While others like our group quietly worked to figure out where their pieces went.
Discouragement Sets In
Time passed and progress was not made. Some began running around rearranging work that had been done. Finally, collective frustration began to set in. Next came despair and some began wondering around along the edge of the puzzle. The shouting continued. I guess they felt the need to shout to capture everyone’s attention. But as soon as they opened their mouth you realized that they were just as unsure as you were about what to do. So you stopped listening.
I’ve learned over time that no two people will necessarily take away the same knowledge from the same lesson. Educators say this is due to the many differences among learners including culture, preconceptions and other variations in the learning process. This was evident as we gathered as a large group to debrief our frustrating attempt to piece the puzzle together. We had finally accomplished the task. But the reality was that most had quit and left the task to a smaller group to accomplish.
I believe it was our many differences, including culture, preconceptions and other variations that were the main hurdle in our combined attempt to complete the task. Was this the result of the curse of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:5-8)? It sure did feel like it.
This experience reinforced for me why it is so hard to work with others. But God sure does want us to work with others. For example, in Psalm 133 the psalmist writes, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Or in I Corinthians 12:12-31 where Paul writes, “we are all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…” And again in Ephesians 4:1-13 he writes, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Jesus also prays in John 17:20-23, “My prayer is … that all of them may be one…”
Do I have a choice of going alone? Certainly I do. But it is very apparent that when I do try and work together with others that I partake in something special.
I love reading John 6:1-15. Looking out over a mass of 5,000 people Jesus asks Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip’s responded, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Then enters Peter. “Here is a boy with five small barely loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Then Jesus does something amazing. He tells everyone to sit down and after giving thanks he takes the loaves and small fish and begins distributing them out to everyone. And everyone had enough to eat with plenty left over.
Perhaps the one voice we were not listening to that day of the giant puzzle was our Masters voice. And why is this so apparent? When faced with the enormity of the task the only one who was not paralyzed was Jesus. The different cultures and perspectives were no match for Jesus. Just like feeding 5,000 was no problem for him. What fun it must have been for those disciples on that incredible day! What fun might it had been for our group had we pulled together with God to complete the puzzle?
Recently I participated on a webinar CEDE Sports (previously CSO) facilitated about, “How to Play Sports for the Glory of God.” When I think about this topic I remember the day of the giant puzzle and how I was paralyzed by the enormity of the task. Even Bob Schindler who moderated the webinar commented, “I don’t think there is a more heady subject than the glory of God outside of the subject of God himself.”
With a subject like this it doesn’t take long for the many differences and preconceptions to begin to be injected into the conversation. We may become discouraged, or question why we would want to stay engaged in the conversation anyway. Perhaps even quit all together because we don’t think we can contribute.
Our Only Shot at Success
Can I challenge you? Can I challenge myself? It’s about doing it with God. It’s about what we learn along the way. Let’s journey together with God to discover His perfect plan. Together, with God, let’s bring our piece of the puzzle to each other and listen for His voice of revelation.
The reality is that without God this conversation too will become our Tower of Babel. “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” Genesis 11:8