The Tangram Puzzle of Love and Belongingness

Intersecting an Ancient Math Puzzle to a Lesson on Introspection

If you’re a homeschooler, you and your student are most likely already familiar with tangrams. Tangram puzzles are composed of a combination of seven basic shapes: one square, five triangles, and one parallelogram. When the shapes are combined, it makes a shape of a large square. The objective of the puzzle is to come up with different figures using all seven pieces. Without overlapping, all pieces must touch.

Tangram

 

Tangram Figures and Rules

Tangrams for Kids

What’s interesting about a tangram puzzle is that it not only helps a student think regarding spatial relationships, but it also provides a fun and tactile way of learning concepts. It challenges my child to find likely links and explore the many figure possibilities she can make out of seven pieces of three standard shapes.

tangram template

In terms of applying the lesson to practical living, I asked my 10-year-old daughter to write down on each shape the different positive traits or talents she thinks she has, along with areas she believes are not her strong suit. In this exercise, the shapes are no longer seen as just puzzle pieces, but parts of her personality. And so, I asked her to link the pieces together to form different human forms. The goal of the exercise is to show her that every part of her could be used to create many possible combinations. And that nothing in her, including those she perceived as undesirable, would go to waste.

Every piece of her character, personality, experiences, skills or lack of connects to a new configuration, and the amazing thing is that the possibilities could go beyond the limits of her imagination!  It’s a great tool for self-reflecting. It helps develop a keen sense of understanding. It may also assist in improving problem-solving skills.

Consequently, the same concept could be applied when she searches for her place in any group or community she’s a part of or would like to be a part. The takeaway is that the pieces don’t have to fit a shape of a square. Fitting in or being a part of a whole isn’t limited to forming just one shape or figure. The seven representational pieces could be rearranged to create a new shape that’s more interesting and lively than just a square.

 

 

On Love and Belongingness, a biblical and spiritual take on the concept of Tangram Puzzles

My Tangram Puzzle’s biblical reflection zeroed in on Ephesians 4:7-16, Psalm 23, and 1 Peter 2:16-17. I put the extra emphasis on Ephesians 4:15 and 16, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

But what is love?

There was a time when I clung to the adage that we’re bound by the Almighty’s love. To me, hearing the words, Bound by Love was romantic. Hence, when the first time I heard Maya Angelou discussed her interpretation of love, I was mystified and somewhat taken aback. I tried to grasp its message, but I didn’t have a set of mature eyes to see it in its full depth. So, I just marked it as a beautiful and spirited representation of a poet’s idea of love. Maya Angelou says, “Love liberates,” “Love doesn’t just hold,” and “Love doesn’t bind.”

 

Maya Angelou on Love and Liberation

Oh, but those were powerful words! A few years and many scars later, I have begun seeing its full beauty.

And as my faith walk comes full circle, I see not only what Maya Angelou meant by her message on love, but I also began deeply appreciating the principle of it as exemplified by God. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold. It doesn’t bind. I’m consequently beginning to see the spiritual and a personal life to it. The Father’s sending of His Son, the Son’s crucifixion, and resurrection are the ultimate manifestation of love that liberates. And that the love that God has for the body of Christ is one that frees. A Love that had us started living with a changing and maturing sense of unity. Love liberates. Love does not bind. Love unites. And all these relates to a maturing and devoted level of affection, respect, and connection in a relationship. The challenge now is simply summarized to a question of connecting love and liberty as an inseparable unit.

Love liberates. Love does not bind. Love does not just hold. And all these points to a personal level of accountability that I put in the role I play in different relationships. The challenge now is simply having the conviction to ask the question to the person I have a relationship with, “Does my love liberate you?”  

I would want to be in a place of contentment and total lack of fear when I would, as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a relative, a friend, a church member ask, “Does my love liberate you?”

What is belonging and fitting into a body of love?

When I was approached to lead the task of creating centerpieces for the upcoming women’s event that has the theme “I belong,” the initial thought that came to mind were puzzle pieces. But then, I also realized that the general concept of basic puzzle games was too easy. Inside of me, there’s a nagging feeling that said, although it made good sense, it was a little lukewarm for the occasion. It was a similar feeling I had when I hadn’t found the courage yet to look at my reflection and tell that person, “You are enough,” that I am enough.

Piecing small parts together to expose a hidden image made sense but somehow the process also limits the confines of a larger picture that’s always evolving. It’s not the same as putting small sticks together to form a stronger and much efficient broomstick. And so when I say, I belong,  what does that even mean to me?

It’s important for me to acknowledge, that the hunger and the need for Belonging are bigger than the general idea of fitting in. The wholehearted truth in the empowered self-declaration of “I belong,” is more than just about fitting every piece into a predetermined picture.

This is why I am marrying the concept of Tangrams and a regular puzzle and use it as a highlight of the table centerpieces for this year’s church-sponsored major women’s event. The women and I in the committee will scatter few regular puzzle pieces for additional decorative effect and for emphasis that we are a collective group of hidden figures link to make a wide array of potentials that only God could fully determine.

The Unity in the Church is made possible only by the presence of God’s enduring love.

As the members of the church begin understanding the wisdom and the call for consistency behind God’s gifts to the church and their responsibilities to equip the people to do God’s work and to the building of the church and the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12); and as we continue speaking about unity in faith and living it and growing to be more and more like Christ, we’ll then eventually as a body start purposely linking a part to the other to make a wonderful unit.

And as we’re joined by God’s enduring love, the body will start singing in glorious harmony the Psalm 23 of David.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.”

 

In a Tangram Puzzle, although the seven pieces belong to a  shape of a square, this is not the only figure it can form. The seven pieces can connect in various ways to form into different creative surprises. Every shape could beautifully link together into any figure.
‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:16‬, declares, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Just like what it says in the invitation beautifully created by a sister for the women’s event every woman needs to feel that she is valuable, cherished and that she belongs.
Women's Day Invite
In closing, I believe that the amazing gift of uniqueness that God’s bestowed in each person gives us confidence that we’re not just a piece to a whole puzzle. We are a creative link to a variety of possibilities. And because of this, every one of us can confidently and lovingly say, “We belong!” And on a personal level, I can state, “I belong!”
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