what my printer taught me about problem-solving


My inkjet printer: this big, bloated machine sometimes worked and sometimes it didn’t.

Sometimes, it printed on command, flawlessly. Usually, it required bizarre coaxing and convincing. Opening and closing the ink cartridge area sometimes did it. Opening and closing the scanner portion sometimes helped. And every once in awhile, removing and reloading the paper helped. Still other times, it outdid itself, printing four copies of a page when I just wanted one.

This printer didn’t work and so I diagnosed it as the problem.

Supposedly, it printed wirelessly? Supposedly I wouldn’t have to belt my computer to it with a shamelessly short USB cord? Supposedly, it was economical and time-saving?

With every printing experience, I contemplated a brand new printer to replace this piece of junk. Because it was the root of the problem, after all.

In a strange way, this mess of a printer had a little moral to its story.

With little fanfare, I replaced my laptop last weekend. It was approaching year five, and this weird black bar appeared in the center of my screen and the repair price tag was crazy.

I spent much of Sunday and Monday playing the data transfer game and downloading all the software . . . including the software for my printer. I hit print by accident while I was typing and heard that something’s-printing melody in the other room. 

Friends, it was tech magic.

The wireless network connected, by no work of my own, and all was simply well. The thing worked like a charm! I’ve encountered no problems since, knock on wood.

All along, I thought I knew just what the problem was. Diagnosis: Printer. All along, I could have sworn that the problem was this crappy printer of mine. But the printer was a symptom; the problem was the laptop.

How many times do we make the same mistake? How many times have we misdiagnosed where the problem lies? Sometimes, we’re focusing on entirely the wrong part of the situation.

In faith, in life, in friendship, in work, in community . . .
how many times have we uttered the familiar “if-only” under our breath . . . 
. . only to later see the problem wasn’t what we thought?

We fixate on that solution and forget that maybe, just maybe, the answer is something altogether different.

We don’t always know, and we’re not always right. And what rich, precious freedom that holds.

Linking up here & here today!

2 thoughts on “what my printer taught me about problem-solving

  1. Love the metaphor. I am a total, analytical, problem solver (gets in the way sometimes), google is my best friend. If only google could give me the answers to lifes problems 🙂

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