The Ball of Yarn

Some of you who hang around me have heard me compare problems and goals to a ball of yarn.

I used to view problems and goals as puzzles in which you had to solve each part in a certain order, and if you missed a step, you’d miss the solution. This means that you need to know the whole problem so you know when to do which part. The truth is many solutions are far less sequential and far more messy.

The concept I’m talking about is very simple: solving certain problems and reaching certain goals are like untangling a ball of yarn. It doesn’t really matter where you start. You just have to pull on a string and see where it takes you. Once you’ve untangled that part or you run into a snag, you pull on another string and see where that one takes you.

Looking back, I now see this theme running through a lot of my life. For example:

  • When I was 21, I became incredibly restless with my job as a software developer. Unsure of where to go or what to do, I ended up living internationally for a while, even took linguistic classes, then eventually left my job to pursue other options. This was a journey filled with only one certainty: that each place I was leaving was not the place I felt I should be.
  • When I was 22, a friend of mine encouraged me to pursue writing. Once again, unsure of what that meant, I decided to submit one of my stories to a publisher. More recently, I also started blogging. I couldn’t exactly tell what the end result should be, so I took a few steps that I knew took me farther on that journey.
  • My time in a foreign country raised my awareness of the issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Perhaps more than any other pursuit, this has been a “ball of yarn”. It’s meant visiting web sites, reading books, watching movies, and making phone calls. Even all this seems to have accomplished little. Nonetheless, each piece of information I garner takes me closer to my goal, which is making a positive difference in the lives of these women and children.

You see, the magic behind the ball of yarn is that it doesn’t matter so much what step I take but that I keep taking steps.

Here are two examples:

Discovering who God created you to be is a lot like untangling a ball of yarn.

God has specially created each of us, and I think each one of us should have a good idea of what makes us unique. However, not everyone knows what makes them unique, and many people don’t even know how to find out!

Maybe you like music. Maybe you like selling things. Maybe you like being creative, and maybe you’re one of those artsy, poetic types. Maybe you like leading, or maybe you enjoy business. Maybe you need intense physical activity. Maybe you crave quietness and alone-time. Maybe you prefer being directed by someone else.

The picture doesn’t always become immediately clear. Sometimes we’re not sure what we like, and so we first try this, then we try something else. The more uncertain we are of ourselves, the more we tug on strings. However, before long, we can see a theme emerging. And then sometimes crazy things happen when we try something new and discover that we not only love it, but we’re good at it!

Discovering the will of God is often like untangling a ball of yarn.

We ask. We seek. We knock.

We pull a string. It gets snagged. We try another string.

Maybe I’m one in a million, but many times it feels an awful lot like I “stumble” across the will of God in different areas of my life.

Your problem and your goal is just like a tangled ball of yarn.

You can’t solve it all at once. Just take steps in the right direction, and keep taking those kinds of steps.

Don’t let fear or uncertainty paralyze you. Pull that string and see where it takes you!

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