I'm Puzzled

Much like life, you don't complete a puzzle by throwing away the pieces.
-- Craig D. Lounsbrough
Audrey loves to put jigsaw puzzles together-- the 500 to 1000 piece kind. When we're half-watching a television program at night, I may have my nose in a book but she will be hunkered over a tabletop, examining the edges of small colored pieces and comparing them to the box placed nearby, off to the side. I'll usually kid her and say: "Oh, this one has got you." I point to the empty spaces. "You'll never finish this one, it's too hard for you." My gift is encouragement after all.

But she does finish them-- every time. Puzzles help her to relax.
 
John Mark is like me, preferring books and movies, so he never joined his mother in putting puzzles together. But we discovered over the holidays that his wife loves to work them, too. In fact, she is as good as Audrey is at making a beautiful landscape or map of Florida come together out of a box of tiny pieces.
It is frustrating to them both, however, when there's a piece missing. Either it was inadvertently left out of the box to begin with (or you can't be sure of that), or it slipped onto the floor or in between the cushions on the couch. Lost--maybe until Spring cleaning. All those hours of work and still...an empty spot and a sense of incompleteness.

Like the questions that plague us in life. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God allow evil? I prayed, so why didn't God answer my prayer? These may never be answered to our satisfaction in this life-- though I have to believe one day the clouds will lift and God will explain these many mysteries to us (1 Corinthians 13:12). We know enough so as not to lose hope entirely, but something still gnaws at us and makes us wish that we knew more. That we had the whole picture.

Our lives also include many oddly shaped pieces. They are not lost-- we have plenty of them, too--but by themselves they may be unattractive or seem to be unimportant to the picture. We dare not discard them, though. There's a place for everyone. Our life -- and what God wants to do in our life-- cannot be complete without each one. Sickness, disappointment, even tragedy, can be used by Him to accomplish something that will make us more like Christ. "And we know that in all things God is at work for the good of those who love Him...", Paul memorably said in Romans 8:28. He is at work in each of us. It may take a long time to get the whole picture in place and, even if not every piece is found, enough of it will so that something beautiful and recognizable comes into view. Suitable for framing.

Daniela got her love for puzzles from her mother. Audrey thinks that it will be fun, the next time Edna visits from Brazil, to invite her to come to the table and they can work on a big puzzle together. She speaks very little English, and Audrey speaks no Portuguese, so sometimes their communication can be filled with long, awkward silences.

But puzzles only require an eye for what fits, maybe some tactile signals, too. Solving them does not depend on words as much as on shared experience and the ability to see a picture before it actually comes to be.

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see," says Hebrews 11:1.
More pieces will find their unique place in 2020-- in our world, in our church, and in our lives. I'm excited about seeing it happen. Some will perhaps take longer, or never will in this lifetime. But, for those with the patience to look for it-- like Daniela, Maria Edna, and Audrey-- there will be great satisfaction anyway.
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