Do you like doing crossword puzzles – relishing the moment you fill in the last square, confident you have done a good job of completing the task? Or perhaps you like the challenge of a huge jigsaw puzzle, pieces finally all falling into place? I had the privilege this vacation to work on a jigsaw puzzle – not a particularly huge one (only 1000 pieces). It came in a box of 4 puzzles, so we purchased the “set” because we figured we’d have all week to plug away at them in the evening and on any rainy day. Since there were a few days we spent “inside”, we figured this was going to be a great way to pass our time. I don’t think I have ever worked on a harder, more challenging jigsaw puzzle! And we only finished one! We set out to accomplish all four, but one took us all our effort and that was with the two of us working on it almost every free moment we had!
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. (James 1:12 MSG)
What made this puzzle a little more challenging than most was the complexity of the picture it displayed and the size of the pieces which were cut. You see, the pieces were particularly small, so although they gave you a “hint” of where they might fit, there was still insufficient evidence of the piece “fitting” in just the right spot. The picture was also quite challenging in that it was flowers, block walls, cascading waters, trees, sky, and the like. What proved to be the greatest challenge was the stone wall house. The house was old, made up of misshapen bricks, with five irregularly shaped windows/doors. The easiest part was the roof – putting all those shingles in place followed a ‘pattern’ so it made it easier. The flowers were so similar in color to one another; the pieces were all a little confusing.
So, what does this have to do with our passage today? I think we are sometimes faced with challenges in our relationships, spiritual life, or emotions which are kind of like this jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are all messed up to begin with, so even sorting them out into a semblance of order is quite a challenge. Even when we finally feel we have them in some sort of order, getting them to actually “fit” where they are intended to fit is sometimes a whole lot of effort.
The jigsaw puzzle also lends another lesson for us to consider. Tests come in all shapes and sizes. We don’t get to pick them - they kind of pick us! Just like this box of puzzles, there were 4 to choose from. All had the same potential of occupying our attention on the rainy days and in our downtime, but what we did not know was what one we’d be asked to complete first. Life throws us challenges – not knowing which one we will complete first is sometimes a little discomforting. What we can learn from the “jigsaw experience” is this – dig in, roll your sleeves up, and don’t give up. The challenge is designed specifically for you – the only way to the finished product is to start with the first piece and then the second, and so on.
Another lesson to take away from the puzzle – we need a framework in order to gain a little perspective. As long as I worked on some of the “inside” pieces, and my best friend plugged away at the framework, we were still working independently. The framework actually gave us some perspective on how the various pieces fit together. Sometimes we find the framework of our challenge is actually in another’s hands – this requires an element of trust we might not be comfortable with at first, but it can prove to be a very worthwhile thing when we give it a chance to develop as it is supposed to.
Small pieces often don’t give us enough “perspective” to see how they “fit”. We sometimes just have a jumble of pieces, in no particular order, appearing to fit this way or that. In fact, the pieces we think may fit together are often the ones which don’t fit at all! As we put this puzzle together, we realized we made some key mistakes, assuming something fit here or there, just because they “looked” right. The problem with seeing things without the “full perspective” is that we sometimes try to fit pieces together where they don’t belong. Only God has the full perspective, so we need to consult him often as we try to put together the pieces of our life’s challenges.
We almost gave up on this puzzle a couple of times, but we dug in and were determined to finish it. We finally did the last day of our vacation. None too soon, but in just the right timing. Life is kind of like that sometimes – the pieces just don’t fit when and where we want them to, but in God’s timing, all things come together. Just sayin!