Have you ever had that “feeling” God wanted to tell you something but you weren’t sure what? I get that occasionally and have found He is not in as much of a hurry to share as I am to hear what it is. Of course, I know He always knows best so I am willing to wait, though I rarely stop bugging Him about what it is I am sensing! Recently I was meandering through a thrift shop checking out my usual interests; old dishes, books, and old toys and for some strange reason, stopped in front of a shelf of puzzles and got that “feeling” I mentioned in the opening sentence. I remembered to pause knowing God is doing something. This time He did not speak but instead, took me on a little mind journey back to when I put puzzles together regularly. Decades ago I wasn’t a social person so could lose myself in puzzles for hours and days at a time. I loved the peace, tranquility, challenge, and also the tediousness of putting a puzzle together when hours felt like minutes. So after standing before dozens of stacked puzzles for some time reminiscing, I decided to buy a new/used puzzle. It sits next to me as I write, waiting for just the right time to be put together. While I have waited, the “feeling” continued, and then God shared with me through a most entertaining but unexpected way.
Before I share that, if you have ever done a jigsaw puzzle, you know there is generally a process. Dump the pieces out of the box and turn them all over to see the “picture” side. Sort the straight edge pieces which will form the border and start putting that together first. Look at the picture and choose a part to work on while gathering those colored pieces. People sometimes choose the sky, grass, or mountain while others find it easier to start by choosing an object like a car, house, or animal. Then we go for it! If we get into the flow of finding fitting pieces, sweet success is accomplished steadily and quickly. But if there are long periods of time with no “fits”, the frustration level can rise as well as the temptation to give up. This is always a good time to take a short respite or work on another part to give our eyes and mind a change of scenery.
Getting close to completion drives us because putting the last piece in place is pure joy! Then we admire and perhaps take a few pictures to show off our effort. Some people preserve their work and frame it but most often the process is finalized by breaking the puzzle apart and returning it to the box, storing it away, eventually putting it out at a garage sale, or taking it to the thrift shop for someone else to enjoy.
Well, two of my daughters recently planned an Auntie/Nephew weekend at our house, and while running errands with the little guy they stopped to pick up a few craft supplies! As the story was relayed to me, the girls were shopping for their items while Solomon was enjoying an excursion of his own, finding a puzzle which he excitedly presented to his auntie for purchase. When she suggested he put it back and they look for something else, he hugged it while exclaiming, “Auntie, I REALLY want this John Deere puzzle.” She couldn’t resist and he is now the proud owner of a sixty-piece puzzle at 2 ½ years old. Puzzle time was planned after nap time to Solomon’s delight!
God quickly brought revelation to my renewed interest in puzzles after Solomon’s nap because I was able to watch puzzle making and life through God’s eyes! The process came back quickly! First, we dumped out the pieces (one of Solomon’s favorite parts) and taught him how to turn each one over which he eagerly did. Then we showed him how to pick out the straight-edged pieces to form the border. As the momentum built, I couldn’t help but enjoy watching my grandson put the puzzle together as we handed him one piece at a time and showed him where it went. Now if you are an experienced puzzle maker, you know the self-control it takes not to put the pieces in place yourself even when helping a child. But we all wanted to help Solo succeed and his occasional outbursts of joy and satisfaction were well worth letting him put the pieces in instead of doing it ourselves.
As he became more proficient we would say, “Turn it around so it fits”. He followed our instructions and discovered he could do it. When it was finished, he threw his arms up in the air, and with a delighted squeal of triumph, looked at each of us individually and said, “I did it! I did it G’ma! I did it Papa! I did it Auntie!” We joined in his zeal saying “Yes, Solomon, you did it! Way to go!”
Then it was time to take pictures so we could show off Solomon’s accomplishment and quickly followed that up with the best part for a two-year old – disassembly! Solomon needed no further prompting than the words, “Let’s take the puzzle apart now” before he dug in, ferociously tearing the puzzle apart! He was laughing and looking at us, wondering when we were going to stop him. We didn’t! His enthusiasm for destruction was as strong as it had been during construction and completion. And then to my delight… he wanted to do it again. So we did!
What can we learn about God through making puzzles? The process we go through in life is very much the same because we must sort through our pieces, turning things around in our heads to figure it out and see more clearly, finding the straight edges of life which will give us a sense of order, while choosing what parts of our life to work on, putting it together piece by piece and seeing the plans and purposes unfold little by little. This process may not be as neat and tidy as puzzle-making can be, and of course it takes a lifetime to finish our puzzle, but nonetheless, we dump, look, turn, and put together the pieces of our lives in much the same manner as we work on a puzzle. Imagining life as a jigsaw puzzle created and designed specifically for us with all the pieces available stirs our anticipation and excitement to work on our puzzle! God has given us natural abilities, families, friends, callings, talents, and opportunities, all of which are pieces of our puzzle. Often times we would rather trade them in for different pieces, but it doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t give us a new puzzle just because we don’t like the one He gave us.
So just like in puzzle making when we can’t find pieces often enough, we run into snags and hold-ups in life, we don’t have the time or opportunities we prefer, or our friends and family tick us off, we get frustrated and are tempted to move on, give up, trade in, or shut down because we don’t like “hard”. This is not a smart move because the time will always come when we have to face the “hard” stuff and work through it. Might as well deal with it right away! A change of scenery is good for mental health, as long as we are not running away and are determined to return to that part of the puzzle and fit the pieces together.
I shared that I liked to do puzzles alone but I also did them with other people making it more fun, even competitive, while discovering great conversation happens around a puzzle. God provides people in our lives as pieces who can make our time here more fun, more competitive and ultimately more thrilling. Unfortunately, we often choose to go it alone, struggle, get frustrated, and want to quit. So when the pieces of our life don’t fit together as fast as we would like or the way we planned, it doesn’t mean we should pout or refuse to work on our puzzle. Simply re-focus, get into the flow and rhythm of life, let other people help, and the pieces will start fitting together again!
Bottom line: God put together the pieces of our puzzle before we were born. Psalm 139:16 spells this out perfectly. “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Imagine God seeing us before we were formed! It is amazing to know He put together our substance and fashioned our days. We can embrace and get into making our puzzle or we can waste our life in regret while refusing to look and accept our puzzle pieces! Maybe we don’t like the family God put us in, don’t like the scenery (our puzzle), our limitations (the border), or we don’t want any help putting our puzzle together. Maybe our family bloodline is riddled with alcoholism, abuse, divorce, mental, or physical ailments! We think we are just stuck with the pieces but we are anything but stuck! It is by putting the pieces together that we begin to see His masterpiece. If we keep our puzzle pieces separated and never put them together, we will never see the beauty God created!
When we feel stuck or feel like we “don’t fit” we simple need to trust in the One who makes all things new! He is able to meld, mold, and make our puzzle new, and He stays right there encouraging us to keep turning and placing pieces of our lives together. Our part is to be faithful to keep putting the pieces together rather than looking for another puzzle to fit our pieces into. We are originals, and no matter how many times we self-destruct He doesn’t give us a new puzzle with new pieces! What He does do is even better. He walks with us! He teaches us! He encourages us! He directs and we get to follow and find the good in what He has formed and fashioned for us.
To make this puzzle making even more incredible, we are given a measure of faith to ensure we finish our life puzzle! “…as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”(Romans 12:3) When we exercise and use this measure of faith, it multiplies and gets stronger! We use our faith to live, putting all the pieces of our puzzle together piece by piece, struggle by struggle, relationship by relationship, trial by trial, and victory by victory!
God doesn’t leave us when the going gets tough, when the pieces aren’t fitting together, or when we can’t find our way! He doesn’t get up and say, “Well, we’re not making any progress so I’ll just come back later!” Instead He stays on, waiting patiently, willing to help, willing to hand us pieces like we did for Solomon, directing us to turn things around so they fit, and then sharing in our excitement as we say “We did it! Father, we did it!”
You see, this puzzle of life is of utmost importance because when the last piece is put in place, we will throw our hands up in the air with a shout of triumph declaring, “It is finished! I did it Jesus!” His reply to us will be “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of the Lord.” (Matthew 25:23) The moment we snap the last piece in place the fun begins. We will die to this world but we will live forever in His presence! The big difference at the end of this puzzle is that instead of us destroying or taking apart the puzzle on that last day, God will! And then we’ll do it again, but this time we get an eternal, heavenly body, and our puzzle has no end!
If you think about it, puzzle making is like eating a meal. Food that may have taken hours to prepare can take only minutes to devour. A puzzle can take hours, days, or weeks to put together, but will take only minutes to dismantle. And this puzzle we call life? Well for most of us it will take seven to nine decades to complete our puzzle! And the disassembly? Well, God has that covered! 1 Corinthians 15:52 “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” This life is done! “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I’m liking the sound of the new puzzle without end! How about you?