Have you ever felt that your life was unfinished, incomplete? There is an amazing work being done in you but it seems to be a series of scattered and various parts that are present but not yet assembled.
It was in a conversation with my wife as we processed the day’s events, the situations that trouble us, and the multitude of circumstances that are unresolved in our lives, that the image of a puzzle came to my mind.
I am sure you remember puzzles, I am thinking of the kind you actually put together physically. You open the box and out spills 500 or 1000 pieces or more on the table; a menagerie of color and shapes before you that really don’t have a lot of definition right away. The first thing you do is spread them out and turn them all over so that you can see every pieces characteristics, then you start grouping them according to color, and shape. Border pieces, solid colors together and so forth. You may have another way of doing this and that’s just fine.
The point is that this process can somewhat mirror how our lives are “put together.” We are a puzzle all our own, and though some parts go together quite easily, there will inevitably be challenges ahead.
For instance, let’s say you have a puzzle that depicts a landscape. I think it is safe to say at this point that most people will do the border first; generally speaking it is the easiest thing to do. Then finding the most obvious alike pairings other parts are assembled.
Now, there is a large section of the puzzle that is sky, and every piece looks very much the same. How do you begin to fit those together? It isn’t all that scientific, it’s a bit of trial and error in which you see one piece, it looks as if it might fit another and so you put them together. Oops! Wrong two pieces, so you continue to scan the table for suitable matches. This takes awhile, and it may be at this point you say, “I will come back to this tomorrow.” All that intense focusing on the parts can wear you out and even give you a headache. Your muscles tighten up from sitting there in the same position for so long that you must get up and take a break, stretching, allowing yourself to see something else for a while to break up the monotony.
You may take several days of walking away and coming back, a few moments here and there given to solve the mystery before you reach a point at which it all comes together. In the process, you have probably more than once thought that it would never be finished, that there were certainly pieces missing, or that you really didn’t like the picture that much anyway so what’s the point of continuing further. Ultimately it all ends up back in the box right where it all started!
Hmmm, in many ways it sure sounds like life to me. We are being constructed, like a puzzle, and it isn’t an effortless thing.
We can find the limits of our understanding and the lengths to which we will go in our efforts; we will frame what we will accept as reasonable sacrifice in our lives, and that is the border. It is the thing which is the circumference of our entire perspective, so that is the first thing we do. The border is set initially and often before we really know the work that lies ahead.
Then we tackle the most simple shapes and colors, and by doing this we are building confidence. By deftly assembling these parts so effortlessly we can sense a burgeoning pride in our skill and intellect. But we deceive ourselves with these simple life tasks and gain a false sense of security that says we can seemingly solve every quandary in record time.
Then comes the really difficult parts, the sky or water, which is all very similar and numbingly confusing. We find ourselves getting impatient; we are stumped by this new life experience and after sailing through everything else start to grow restless and uncomfortable. We throw our hands up in frustration and walk away, what’s the point? Even though we have a vision for what is to come, our lives don’t seem to be coming together as we thought they would. This is too hard, this relationship to strained, this calling to challenging. We retreat to our safe zone and something we are good at that doesn’t cause us to be stretched in our thinking or beliefs.
We take a break for a day or two and return with a renewed vision and resolve, “this puzzle isn’t going to defeat me” we say boldly as we once again begin scanning the table for the elusive pieces we missed before. Just like life, we can become overwhelmed by the stresses and pressure we constantly face and so we walk away. Does it mean we are finished? Maybe. There is most assuredly a point at which many turn back and just grab the box and sweep all the pieces back into it and put it back on the shelf, simply giving up. But something rises up within us as we push through the frustration and roadblocks and finish the puzzle. With great satisfaction we gaze upon this work of art that is our life. We have persevered through many trials and failures, and we have reached our goal!
Yes, our lives can be what now seems to be a completed puzzle. A beautiful picture of a tranquil stream nestled in a lushly wooded setting, flowers, wildlife, and a cloudless sky with a brilliant sun rising over the horizon. But suddenly the puzzle gets pushed aside and a section falls to the floor; this perfect life is again in a state of disarray. How easily this can happen, and how quickly life can go from utopian serenity to utter disaster.
Our lives are like a puzzle and in the process we:
• Create and enforce the limits of our understanding and beliefs
• Can become arrogant in our accomplishments and carried away by pride.
• Come up against obstacles that may cause us to walk away, give up, or change direction.
• Return with new faith, resolve and commitment
• Are humbled, learning more about ourselves and others
God has created you, and you are an amazing work of His hand. From the most joyful and fulfilling to the hopelessly tragic and disastrous, we are being assembled piece by piece for God’s own unique purpose.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6