Just a Piece At a Time

My neighbor told me he’d rather watch paint dry than to do a jigsaw puzzle.

But, I actually like them. I’m not fast at them, like our youngest daughter. Watching her do a puzzle is like watching a tennis match. She’s like watching a tennis match.

She’s been known to complete a 1500-piece puzzle in a couple of hours. That’s not me.

I got this current 2000-piece puzzle for my wife for Christmas. She was so excited to work on it. So, sometime in February we got it out. But, then, it was too much of a maze for her to work on, so I have been plugging away a moment here and there. I told you I was slow! But, there’s no rush. The puzzle will be there. And in the meantime, it is a gift back to me.

So, here’s what I love…

Beauty gets created a piece at a time.

None of life goes together instantly, so a puzzle like life, gets constructed a piece at a time. Similar to our relationships, which get put together a word, a phrase, a gesture at a time, so, in a puzzle, the whole, the beautiful picture comes together slowly. It is a good reminder not to rush relationships. Watch over the word you speak, like a piece in a puzzle. For a single word can be destructive or life-giving. Puzzles remind me of this.

Such piecemeal work results in beauty. God is always working to create beauty of chaos in my life. And beauty is created slowly. The seed is planted, germinates, and over time brings forth the flower.

The whole picture cannot be seen in a single piece.

Life has many pieces which make no sense, from which we cannot fathom the whole. Puzzles keep me focused on the fact that God is doing the building in my life. So, my job is to stay faithful to the piece I hold; love the person before me; speak the next word in the conversation; care for these individuals in conflict; show up, but don’t imagine my little piece is the whole picture.

I need not expect to grasp the whole from the piece I hold. None of us holds all the pieces.

Puzzles slow life down to a crawl.

A stillness settles over me as I just look for the next piece to place. Doing a puzzle becomes a form of contemplative prayer. I love how quieting it is to my heart. I stop, stare, ponder. Silence is a great gift. I notice my breathing. My muscles relax. I am simply present. And in the quiet I can allow that Other, Higher Voice to flow into my soul. Such a gift.

Alternatively, as life slows, I can quietly work while listening to a great book. Currently I am listening again to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which is some great literature. The epic journey in these books is parabolic to me, speaking of how burdens we can carry need to be destroyed by us. Some lines stand out to me. Like this one by Treebeard, a favorite character, who says,

“Good! Good! But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become too hot. I must cool myself and think; for it is easier to shout stop! than to do it”

Tolkien, JRR, The Two Towers, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., c. 1987, arr, ubp., p 463.

Such truth.

Finally, Puzzles create rhythm.

Strangely, being reminded of all these things day by day as I pass the puzzle, or stop for a moment, creates a kind of rhythm in life. There’s this steadiness I love about having a puzzle up. It creates a break, a pause in what otherwise can become a never-ending pace. All of life is meant to be thus lived, with rhythm, so, I need the reminder.

This week, I had the opportunity to share the story I shared a bit from last week in this blog. It was the story of Jesus calling to Peter to come to him, walking on the water. Last week I wrote how Peter got his eyes off of Jesus. In sharing with others this week, another insight emerged. Although Peter got distracted from a single focus on Jesus, Jesus never stopped looking at Peter.

Sit with that for a moment.

Sometimes in life we can feel invisible, unseen, but this story might remind us no matter what we feel, to Jesus, we are seen and noted. He is looking at us, keeping us in his sights moment by moment. As I participate with my little piece in this life, as I create beauty a piece at a time, as I pause, as I slow down, as I find my rhythm, Jesus is with me in all of it. He sees you and me, and like a puzzle is looking at us to place our piece just where it needs to be to complete the picture he’s creating.

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