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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Putting It Together

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org
Once a year, I work a jigsaw puzzle. My son buys it for me as a Christmas gift, and we spread it out on the dining room table and lay in one piece at a time until it's done. I like laying the pieces in, watching the picture form slowly. It always seemed like a fitting activity for the dark of winter at the end of one year and the beginning of another, and now I know why.

A jigsaw puzzle is a metaphor for life.

Think about it.
A thousand pieces or more that make up a design someone else conceived. Each piece a day that I can only add one at a time. 

The edges first--a framework for everything else.  God, the law, my conscience, the place and time ordained for me above all others. I have to start there.

Then I look for big patterns--the side of a barn, a bunch of flowers, a face, a doorway--and I gather the pieces up, again one at a time, to see whether they fit. Some do. They are a job, marriage, children--the things around which all else must fit. And the easily recognizable parts begin to take shape.

These usually go together fairly quickly. Yes, I look at them one by one, but not always too closely. They come almost automatically. But then I have to join them. I have to piece together a sidewalk, a brick wall, a lake, a bookcase. This is when it gets harder and slows down. The pieces all look so much alike. Raising kids. Going to work day after day. Learning my spouse does not exist to make me happy. These are the days we learn to live with mistakes. I get frustrated when this phase starts, not liking the forced slowdown. I have to individually examine every one of these pieces for size and shape and color, in order to figure out where it fits. I find a place in the puzzle for some. Some I put aside for later. Some I try to force--surely it goes in this spot. But it doesn't. This is when I am most likely to lose or bend a piece.

But all the while, the picture builds. I see more of it every day, become familiar with each region of it. The brown pieces go in the upper right. The green ones go near the door. The ones that look like mottled eggshells are a sandy beach and go next to the water.
I dream about every detail, excited to see where the next piece will go.

And always, always, I see the end approaching. The pile of loose pieces shrinks, but I feel no panic. The empty places in between begin to disappear and I stand back occasionally to see what all those small pieces have wrought.

It is then I see what I am making. One by one, day after day, piece by piece, the overall design, made long ago by my Father in heaven, finally comes together and I can see it, and remember. This is when I did this or this is what happened on that day. This is not a painting, beautiful only for the finished product. It is gradual assimilation of detail, forever made of small things bound together into the finished whole it was always meant to be.

The puzzle only goes together one way and, eventually, I hold only one piece in my hand. The box is empty, all other places filled in. I am finished.

My last day.
And I lay my final piece into place and stand back to look. So that is what I am. That is what You planned for me all along. 
Thank you. It is beautiful.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom--Psalm 90:12

12 comments:

  1. I love how the Lord gives us pictures of what He does in our lives in everyday things. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I know. Both me and a friend had almost identical thoughts at the same time about doing year-end puzzles with our children. I do like that.Thanks for leaving a comment.

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  2. I love this analogy and how you developed it, find it touches some deep place in my heart. Around here we like to do jigsaws around this time of year, too. Haven't done one yet this January, and don't have a new one. But there's a little stack in the attic of ones we did quite long ago... I think I'm going to be reflecting on your post as I work my next puzzle, especially those last parts.

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    1. A few years ago, Bryan bought DaVinci's Last Supper as a puzzle and that brought a whole new dimension to the exercise. It took much longer, almost a whole month, but as it came together, brought so much opportunity for reflection. One of these days, I'm going to pull that one down again, too.

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  3. This is beautiful. I worked a number of puzzles over Christmas with my children and niece. It is a relaxing activity, and now I will look at it with new eyes. Also, I needed these words this morning as I was feeling a bit disjointed but now realize that minor bumps are just part of the puzzle. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Courtney. Isn't it amazing how sometimes it's the smallest things that make the biggest impression?

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  4. "It is gradual assimilation of detail, forever made of small things bound together into the finished whole it was always meant to be." I love this statement...you really brought the metaphor together here! Loved it! What happens if a piece goes missing? or gets lost? That is where God's grace has to fill in the gap :) Blessings! Kel

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    1. Good question. I actually had a piece go missing this year, and there I was, completely unsatisfied and searching. Go figure. Found it under the couch eventually, though. :)

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  5. what a lovely metaphor for our lives. God bless. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop . Big Hugs

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    1. Thanks, Katherine, and thanks for all your hard work in hosting every week. So glad to be able to join in.

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  6. I love putting together puzzles yet I can't remember the last time I did. But what a analogy! There are so many pieces to life. I'm thankful God is putting them together.

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    1. Yes, He is, and we get to help! Thanks, Pamela.

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