12/1/10

The Pieces of Our Puzzle

I have a puzzle hanging on my wall at Christmastime that brings back many memories of Thanksgivings at my husband's parents house in Palm Springs. Every year, we put together a puzzle. Everyone had to place at least one piece, and some of us were avowed puzzleholics!

One year ~ after completing the "A Christmas Legacy" Victorian puzzle (seen here) ~ Bob's parents framed the puzzle and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. Stored in the back of my clothes closet, I can't wait to hang it each December.

When I think about the hours we spent on that puzzle, I get tired all over again. It was tough work! I remember trying to jam pieces into one spot ~ and nothing fit until the very end. I was thankful for the patterned box top, so we could see how the finished product was supposed to look.

It's always so rewarding to see a puzzle come together.

How like life. It wears us out, trying to fit in all the pieces. Sometimes we try to jam in something that doesn't belong. If we'd just consult the "pattern," the Word of God, many of our puzzles would take shape the way God intends. Even our struggles fit the plan God has for our lives. God tells us not to think it strange that trials come (1 Peter 4:12). Though the pile of pieces that make up our lives may not make sense to us ~ all the shapes and sizes of circumstances we face ~ there are some "connections" that help.

We always put the border of the puzzle together first. The border is like the guidelines (you might even say, the boundaries) that frame the puzzle. I am so thankful for the guidelines and boundaries God has placed in my life. I am safe, but also, within them I have great freedom.

But once I move away from that border into the big "middle" of the puzzle, things get a little crazy. It's harder to see how specific pieces have a place. It's easy to get frustrated, or even want to give up. I admit that I have to "leave" a puzzle for a while sometimes, upset when nothing seemed to fit; but eventually, a new piece, or perhaps an old piece seen from a different perspective, finds a home in the puzzle. And new connections are made. I get excited, and move forward quickly until I hit another snag.

What a thrill when a puzzle is completed. (One year, my son hid the last piece! He finally "fessed up" after his mama nearly went crazy, looking for it.)

Sometimes in life, it feels like a piece is missing. But God has a way, even then, of helping us make sense of our puzzles, and working all things for our good (Romans 8:28). We know that someday He will supply the missing piece. God's goal is that we learn as we go, with each new piece of the puzzle making us more like the final picture: He wants to transform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

I read a post by someone named "Shelley" on this same topic. Shelley wrote, "Life, a Christian life, a sin-filled Christian life, is filled with emotions because we feel like the pieces don't fit. Yet ... as in Romans 8:28, after that time of frustration, of confusion ... it works."

Yes, life works because the Lord is the one who sustains us (Col. 1:15-17) and holds the pieces of our puzzle together. We are safe in His hands.

How about you? Is your life-puzzle driving you crazy? It might help to consult the "picture" God has for you in His Word.

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