If you don’t know about Sudoku—and I can’t imagine who that would be—it is a number puzzle comprised of a grid with 81 squares. Some of the squares are pre-filled. Finishing the puzzle requires filling in the rest of the squares with numbers in such a way that every row and every column contains a 1-9 sequence, and every inner grid of nine squares also has a set of 1-9. There is only one possible solution. It is a very odd entertainment for a word person.
My early efforts were not entirely successful. There were times when I thought I was almost finished, only to discover I had somehow overlooked a duplicate of sevens or some other number in a column. The trick to Sudoku is that every number you add produces a string of reactions, so I was seldom able to retrace a mistake enough to correct it. That became a puzzle for the trash. Some puzzles were so hard I never could solve them, and they too were relegated to recycling.
Ultimately solving the puzzle and giving every number its rightful place is a process of elimination. It is a matter of determining what numbers will not fit in a given spot and whittling away at the possible choices until only one number remains. Square by square, very carefully and without haste, I fill in the grid. I recheck every number to make sure it works in all directions. By methodically figuring out what won’t work, I am able to achieve the singular solution.
My spiritual life requires a similar strategy. I am regrettably unlike the image of God I was created to be. I, who have received a new nature in Christ, too often slouch around in the outdated garb of my old sin nature. I long to less than I am so I can be more of who he is.
The process of being conformed to his image is painstakingly slow. It calls me to examine my life in view of the model set by Christ. It is like a process of elimination in which I root out all that does not reflect his character so that his character can shine through me. I must discard all that is not of Christ in my life to make room for what is wholly him.
Reflecting the image of God demands conformity, not creativity. There is only one solution and that is to be emptied of my former life so that I have room for his total transformation. Sudoku may be my Saturday diversion, but becoming like Christ is my everyday obsession.
Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old un-renewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24