Faith, Reason, Creativity and Missing Pieces

Last week my favorite thrift store had a sale, and I planned my day to accomodate a trip early in the day to case it out. Yes, I know this makes me look cheap, (scheduling around a sale, at the thrift store) so be it. So, we headed over with plans to stock up on puzzles. My son lives for a good puzzle, and the ones at the thrift store are the right price for me to provide him with many options, especially when they are half off. The hazard to these, and all of the used puzzles I’ve bought to help him fill his puzzling appetite, is missing pieces. There is no chance in this life I would ever sit there and count to see if there are in fact all 538 pieces necessary to complete the picture on the box. So I take my chances.

Sometimes the puzzles are complete when we get them, but then the kids lose a piece all by themselves while in process of completion. You take it on faith that the whole thing will come together when you start one of these puzzles. My son does them anyway.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to Robert Rees speak about faith. I clumsily typed as many notes as I could on my phone, trying to get down as much of the golden ideas and insights he rattled off. There was one particular idea that I really stuck with me that evening, rang true to my soul, and I’ve been ruminating on ever since.

We aren’t intended to operate on faith alone. Which is good new to those of us that struggle with it. D&C 88:118 recognizes that we don’t all have it, but provides an avenue to compensate and compliment: “As all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”  While faith is good it is strengthened by substantiation.

I know that’s true, because my faithful desire for answers to all the messiness and unanswered questions in my life are still unsated. I wonder about what to do with pieces that aren’t fitting, my faith doesn’t solve everything. God knows what I want, but wants more from me. Hence, God gave me a brain, with intention for me to use it.

Hugh B. Brown said, “We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.” I find that line quite relieving. In his remarks on faith, Rees pointed out we need to use both reason and creativity. God gave us both intentionally. Left brain and right. On that strain my mind jumped immediately to one of scripture stories I love best: the brother of Jared asking for light for the boats to cross the ocean. And instead of an simple solution in return for BoJ’s faithfulness, God asks him to use his brain, gives him some guidance and says come back with a good idea.

While God asking me for an idea sounds massive, I’m not unfamiliar with it. I’ve been there before. While God wants my faith, and also wants me to think. Jesus welcomes my reasoning and creativity, even as I am still mustering it. As in D&C 50:10 “And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, and let us reason together, that ye may understand.” Reason is a verb as well as a noun, and this quote features the former. Reasoning is an active, engaging and reckoning process of logic and learning,just as creativity is to be of the soul and spirit. Boyd K. Packer made a case for it, and injected another key component when he said, “”Each of us must accommodate the mixture of reason and revelation in our lives. The gospel not only permits, but requires it.” When I have questions about church history or culture, struggle for direction with the transitory year I have been having, and how to be the wife/sister/daughter/mother/whatever, I realize I need that balance of each one.

And while I am ever thankful for revelation, it hasn’t always come quickly, to me or the brother of Jared.  There is a lot of grappling. God gave us the ability to faith, reason and creativity;  intending for us to utilize each one. We are not just to be faithful, but active and engaged as we make sense of things, seek answers and grow. The goal, hopefully, to become like Himself, Herself and itself–godliness is resourceful: drawing on all knowledge and imagination together with the spirit. While my personal reserves are presently microscopic, I love the beautiful theology of where it is all heading and feel so appreciative that my autonomy of mind is valued alongside my faith.

This afternoon, when I sit down to do another bargain puzzle with my son, that may be missing a few pieces, and requires some creative problem solving, I will be reminded of this thought from John Welch, of the Maxwell Institute:

“The picture on the box is a broad, or holistic, view of some reality given by revelation; but the picture on our box is incomplete (see Article of Faith 9) and unclear in spots (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). Moreover, we are also missing several pieces of the puzzle, and we are not even sure how many are gone. Some of the pieces in our box do not appear to belong to our puzzle at first, and others quite definitely are strays. The picture on the box becomes clearer to us, however, with greater study of its details. The more closely we examine the available pieces and the more use we make of our minds, the more we are able to put together a few pieces of solid truth here and there. We may, of course, put some of the pieces in the wrong place initially, but as other pieces are put into position and as we continually refer to the picture on the lid, we are able to correct those errors. As our understanding of both the picture and the pieces progresses, we gain greater respect for what we know, for how it all fits together, and for what we yet do not know.”

Faith, together with reason and some creativity, and a bit of revelation is the only way I know how to begin to put it all together, especially when I’m still missing pieces.

How do reason and creativity factor into your own puzzling? Do you tend to rely on one over the other?

About Sandra

(Prose Board) recently moved to Texas by way of Baltimore and San Francisco and is adjusting to life in the suburbs. She loves sunlight, color, and expensive dark chocolate. She devours cookbooks like novels and writes a bit at www.section89.com.

10 thoughts on “Faith, Reason, Creativity and Missing Pieces

  1. Great post! One of the things I love about the Brother of Jared story is that he actually had THREE problems that needed solving. There was the issue of light but his other two problems were pretty pressing as well–he needed a way to get air into the barges and he also needed a way to steer them. The thing I find so interesting is that the Lord helped him solve each problem but in varying degrees of His involvement. For the steerage issue the Lord told the BofJ not to worry about it–the steering will be taken care of without further mortal thought or concern. As for the air, the Lord gave specific instructions that the BofJ was to carry out–make holes in the top and bottom of the barges and then open or stop them up as needed. I think the issue with light gets so much attention because from start to finish it was the BofJ’s plan but I think it is important to remember that even though it was his brain child it wouldn’t have worked without the Lord’s involvement. In my life I’ve found the same types of distinctions when problems arise–I have experienced answers along the lines of “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.” Other times I’ve had ideas come to me about things I can do myself, to solve a problem. The real difficulty comes (for me) in discerning how much I need to do and how much I need to just trust–I guess it’s the faith vs. works idea (are they separate?) and distinguishing (to quote Michael McLean) “which part is mine”, you know? ;)

  2. Oh, I love this post! I often have a hard time taking certain things on faith alone. The confirmation that reason (and creativity and revelation and all of it) is also important brings such comfort to my questioning soul.

  3. Sandra- great post. Loved it. Reminded me of a sacrament meeting talk when the speaker said we don’t throw the puzzle into the fire just because we can’t find a missing piece at the moment. :)

  4. Great post. It reminds me of President Uchtdorf’s conference talk: Waiting on the Road to Damascus, particularly this paragraph:

    The truth is, those who diligently seek to learn of Christ eventually will come to know Him. They will personally receive a divine portrait of the Master, although it most often comes in the form of a puzzle—one piece at a time. Each individual piece may not be easily recognizable by itself; it may not be clear how it relates to the whole. Each piece helps us to see the big picture a little more clearly. Eventually, after enough pieces have been put together, we recognize the grand beauty of it all. Then, looking back on our experience, we see that the Savior had indeed come to be with us—not all at once but quietly, gently, almost unnoticed.

    This can be our experience if we move forward with faith and do not wait too long on the road to Damascus.

    This is the analogy I think about when I have a hard time with some gender issues in the church.

  5. This post is a perfect example of why I love reading Segullah. It’s a well written reminder to move forward in faith even if there are “pieces missing” in my life. Your words were the inspiration that I needed today. Thanks You.

  6. This piece is magnificent! And so timely for me, too. I know you haven’t had much feedback (commenting on blogs everywhere seems to be slow), but I just want you to know how much I appreciate the insights you’ve shared. What a beautiful way of putting it. Thank you! ♥

  7. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen the picture of what my puzzle will end up being. I gets little bits stuck together, but the vast majority is floating around, all curvy pieces and isosceles triangles.

    Most days I’m happy to plug along at it, having a happy dance when something falls into place. Somedays I worry that I’ve vacuumed up an important piece or 12!

    Thanks for the post, I’ve enjoyed the imagery and thinking about it.

  8. Kellie, your comment made me laugh! I love this post because it’s so true–faith, reason, creativity all function together to help us find our way. All are integral as spiritual gifts, essential components of divine design.

    Your post reminds me of this excerpt from an article by Robert D. Hales. He recounts a story he heard from Marion G. Romney who had to interview many men to determine which of them would become the stake president. He said, “He said: “We will interview 25 or 30 priesthood brethren, and there will be more than one who will be qualified to be the stake president. But after we have done all we can do, we will get on our knees and pray to our Heavenly Father. We will tell Him of our feelings of who the new stake president ought to be and the reasons why. We will tell Him of the needs of the stake at this time. Then He will give us a confirmation.”

    Elder Hales then says: “Isn’t it interesting that President Romney was sent to interview 25 or 30 men to choose one stake president rather than being told directly who it should be before his arrival? This is what the Lord means when He tells us to study it out in our own minds. Too often we want to be given answers to questions and problems that, if they were given in the manner we ask for them, would take away our agency and the blessings that come from reaching out to the Lord for answers and direction.

    Some think it would be nice to have “spiritual fortune cookies” we could open to find the answers to life’s challenges. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a labeled jar we could reach into for our answers? But that is not the way it is meant to be.” (Feb Ensign, 2002, “Gifts of the Spirit”)

    Thanks for writing!

  9. Thank you for writing this! I love to read so if I have a problem I tend to dive into self-help books and see what I can discover. I like to think that this is a good thing, that I am learning as much as I can on my own, and then hopefully I will get the inspiration I need to figure out the right path. And yes, sometimes I just have to use faith :)

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