As a Chrisitian I love to think about spiritual concepts. And as an mechanical engineer I love to work with physical objects. Finding ways to meld these two loves together into spiritual object lessons is therefore a pursuit that I relish.
In the case of the cross puzzle, the inspiration came from various channels. GK Chesterton, one of CS Lewis’s mentor, writes a chapter called Paradoxes of Christianity in his book Orthodoxy. It contains the following quote, “But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its center it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.”
This provided me with a vivid image of the cross; a horizontal piece wanting to fly free but tightly bound to a vertical piece which is firmly rooted in the ground. Paul speaks of this in Romans 7:15 where he says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.”
After compiling this memorable sextuplet of do’s, he goes on to say in verse 21, "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The cross puzzle offers a small example of that spiritual conflict. I have seen people trying so hard to get it apart that they are banging it against the floor and pulling and twisting it every which way. (No one has succeeded in destroying it by their efforts fortunately although the guy who stuck it in a bucket of water was making good progress in that direction!). But finally finding the solution, after lots of ineffective effort, often gives rise, in a small way, to a similar sense of exhilaration as Paul expresses in verse 25 above where you can almost envision him shouting at the top of his lungs; Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
God, through Jesus, has truly provided us with the most wonderful solution to the entanglement of the good and evil within each of us!
Another interesting analogy that can be explored with the cross puzzle is the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to understand salvation in Jesus. Everything that one needs to know to unlock the cross puzzle is contained in the instruction sheet. But invariably, people will read the whole thing and still be dumbfounded about how to do it. At this stage, rather than give additional clues, I will just quietly repeat several time “What does it say?... What does it say?” Often, with this small prompting, and with several re-readings of the clues, the solution breaks upon their understanding and the exhilaration hits. “Oh wow! That’s cool!” In this way, my promptings have served in a similar way to the Holy Spirit, bidding us to dig ever deeper into the Word. The Bible, like the puzzle’s instruction sheet, contains everything that we need to know about godliness and the plan of salvation.
And yet one more analogy! I have found that, once people learn the secret to unlocking the cross, they can't wait to be able to share it with someone else. It is a wonderful picture of the evangelical spirit that spurs us onward in the spread of the Gospel story.
The beauty of this story of salvation is most wonderfully analyzed in Dinesh D'Souza's remarkable book, What's so Great about Christianity. He writes about the interlocking of the good and the evil in the heart of man and the impossibility of human effort to unlock that conflict. Below is the link to the very eloquent way that Dinesh lays out the problem. It was this passage that I was mulling over in my mind when the idea creating the cross puzzle first occured to me.
The full text of the book can be found at