I am nearing the end of my Sudoku puzzle book. This is actually a pretty big deal, considering I have had this book for about 7 years, and have very slowly worked my way through the 200+ number puzzles. If you’re not familiar with Sudoku, the object is to fill a 9x9 grid so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3x3 boxes contain the digits from 1 to 9 only one time each. Digits cannot repeat in box, row or column. And in this particular book, the puzzles get more challenging as you progress.
I was recently stuck on the same puzzle for days before realizing that I had made a mistake. I had two sixes in the same row, which is a criminal offense in the Sudoku handbook. In order to complete the puzzle I had to look at the answer key in the back and correct my mistakes. And I was surprised to see how many there were! One wrong number led to several wrong numbers, creating a sort of domino effect. I had spent considerable time working on a puzzle that was unsolvable, because I was working with incorrect information.
This made me think about how sometimes my ability to work through a problem is hindered because my information is not accurate. At some point, my truth cart gets derailed and I am believing untruths. I am going on assumptions. Or fear or anger clouds and distorts my view, and I can’t see clearly. I got two sixes in the same row, but I don’t know it so I’m filling in boxes with wrong numbers and I can’t figure out why I’m stuck.
Sometimes I see a situation a certain way (from my vantage point), and all of my energy around that situation stems from how I perceive what is going on. I have strong opinions, I’m sure I know other people’s motivations, and I think I know what other people are thinking. And then there is this little thing called history, where I am reminded of something painful that happened to me, or something someone else said or did that makes my current situation feel familiar. And so I get stuck. I can’t move forward or figure anything out, because my perception and my understanding are not aligned with what is true.
There are different ways to align ourselves with what is true. I believe the bible is true, so much like I went to the back of the Sudoku book to correct my answers, God’s Word is useful for teaching me, correcting me, and training me in truth and righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). And when I find that my thoughts, attitudes and opinions do not agree with what I read in scripture, I have a choice: I can correct my thinking, or continue in my folly. I can go my own way. But doing that is as futile as trying to solve a number puzzle with wrong numbers, or refusing to turn around when you are headed south and you are supposed to be going north.
We will not end up where we want to be if we hold on to our faulty perceptions.
In relationships, sometimes I need to check out my assumptions with others. I need to voice what I am believing and thinking about the other person, and be open to the possibility that my perception may not be accurate.
After correcting my Sudoku errors, I was amazed at how quickly I was able to finish a puzzle that had had me stuck for days. Clarity and truth: it’s how we get unstuck. How we get from where we are to where we want to be. And it begins with a willingness to accept that we might be wrong in our understanding, our perceptions, our way of thinking. Is there room in our thinking for this possibility? We might be going the wrong way and not even know it.
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.