As small children my two daughters were blessed with a toy—you’ve seen it, I’m sure. It was composed of two parts: A plastic box with a dozen or so holes of different shapes and a collection of plastic pieces sharped to fit the holes in the box. That toy presented my daughters with endless hours of discovery as they worked through the problem finding properly shaped piece to fit each hole. The very process of going from hole to hole was pure play for them. They never tired of playing with it…at least, for a while. Initially, there were several attempts to place a piece into the wrong hole—but pretty soon they got the hang of it and which shape went into which hole and there were wonderful expression of joy at the discovery and learning they experienced.
For adults it is a (w)hole different story. Adults are conditioned to become upset, angry, and frustrated when the piece they are attempting to put into the hole doesn’t fit. They usually try to force the piece into the hole directly in front of them instead of going in search of an opening that fits the piece at hand. In crisis moments, prayer may even be uttered in words such as this: “Oh God, change the shape of this hole to fit the piece I’m trying to force it into!”
If you took a poll of the prayers you’ve uttered in times of crisis, would most of them sound somewhat like that? At the core of our problem-prayers is our propensity to ask God to change the shape of the whole for a miracle—whether it a problem child, a marriage problem, a financial problem or even a problem of how to pray. Unlike a small child we do not often find delight in problem solving but seek to deny or change whatever is causing the problem.
In the Greek language the word “problem” implies a playfulness in that it literally means “something thrown forward.” A problem is like a ball or a frisbee tossed into the air so that we are invited to playfully chase it. When a problem appears, instead of praying that it be removed, we might ask, “What attitudes, expectations or ways of thinking do I need to change?” Opening ourselves to new ways of being, acting and/or thinking—i.e. being playful with ourselves can allow us to create new solutions to our problems.
Over 200 years ago the Dutch created the “olykoek” or oil cake. This small round sweet dough was cooked by dropping it into hot oil. There was however a problem with uniform frying. Often the cakes would come out with a soggy center. Legend has it that in 1847 Hanson Gregory solved the problem by poking holes in the center of the oil cakes, increasing the surface area for uniform crying. Try poking holes in the center of your problems and you might come up with a new creation that will delight not only you, but the whole world. On an average day, Dunkin Donuts alone serves over 8 million of Hanson Gregory’s creative solutions.