Puzzling – verb or adjective? Well, normally an adjective but I now use it as a verb ever since I recently completed a partially finished puzzle left by my older daughter. I refer to the activity of working on a puzzle as puzzling, just as working on a quilt is called quilting. Makes sense, doesn’t it? An added bonus is the pun that the act of puzzling, or of putting a puzzle together is in and of itself a puzzling endeavor. So it is both the verb and the adjective simultaneously.
Maybe because I was enthused by my recent success in finishing the aforementioned puzzle, I have started a new puzzle all on my own. It is proving to be a slow, frustrating process at present. Trying to find connections for all these small, similar, yet subtly different pieces of the puzzle is a painfully tedious task which hasn’t appeared to yield much progress to date. So far, there is no pretty picture emerging. I see just a bunch of disconnected puzzle pieces covering the table, strewn randomly, even chaotically about and I wonder how anything like a coherent image could ever come from so many disconnected pieces. Then I remember – they are all pieces of the same puzzle. They were made to connect with each other. That is their purpose.
I confess – I can’t help but identify with these puzzle pieces. Like each of them, I know there is a place where I fit in, a place that is a perfect fit for me. But trying to find that place is no small feat. I want to find where I fit into this puzzle of life that is God’s big picture puzzle. (God sees the big picture – I can’t, I don’t have His vantage point – you know, from all eternity, in the beginning God created – that kind of vantage point) I know each piece has a part to play. Which means I can know that I have a part to play in completing the bigger picture that God is putting together. In order to find my place, I have to find other pieces to connect to, pieces which connect with me so that together we form the larger picture God is creating. So my search for where I fit in becomes a search for connection because in connection I will find my place. Apart from connection, in isolation, I won’t ever find my place or my purpose. Puzzle pieces don’t make sense by themselves. Neither do people. They are, as we are, parts of a larger whole. Only when completely connected on all sides do we, like the puzzle pieces, fulfill our purpose of allowing the larger picture to be revealed and finished for all to see.
As I puzzle over my unfinished puzzle, I also puzzle over life, which seems to consist of myriad pieces all waiting for me to connect them and in so doing discover the beautiful picture that is revealed when all the pieces find their proper place. If only life could be solved like a puzzle. But that would require being able to connect the dots, or in this case, the puzzle pieces. And as I know from my experience as a puzzler, that is often difficult to do. Sometimes it is a seemingly impossible task – this finding of connections between random pieces and random people. And yet when the connections are discovered and put into place, something wonderful takes place and a part of the bigger picture emerges. It is an excruciating if not an exciting process, this puzzling.
Still, I agree with the king in one of my all time favorite musicals, “The King and I”, that life often “is a puzzlement.” I can totally understand how the King felt when he sang these words,
“There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely know – very often find confusion, in conclusion, I concluded long ago . . . In my head are many facts of which I wish I was more certain, I was sure – Is a puzzlement. And it puzzle me to learn That tho’ a man may be in doubt of what he know – Very quickly he will fight – He’ll fight to prove that what he does not know is so. . . . Oh, sometimes I think that people going mad. Ah, sometimes I think that people not so bad . . . but is a puzzlement.”
Those words express so much, don’t they? And they raise a puzzling life question, namely how can we know anything for sure? And how can we be sure of what we know? What is the truth and how do we find it? In 2 Timothy 1:9-12 Paul writes these words during a difficult time for him and for the people living in the world at that time,
“This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”
Imagine that. In this very puzzling world, unlike the King of Siam, who wasn’t sure about anything, Paul was sure about something. And the thing Paul was certain about was not an inconsequential thing either, such as being sure what his favorite food was or sure of directions to the next town. No Paul was sure of what he hoped for and certain of what he did not see. (Hebrews 11:1) Paul had faith. And his faith was in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul believed that Jesus was able to “guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” What had Paul entrusted to Jesus? His life. Paul had given Jesus his life and Paul was convinced that Jesus would guard it until “that day”, which was the day of Jesus’s return.
Paul was in prison but he trusted that his story was still being written and that his place in the puzzle God was putting together was being lived out day by day as he looked to God to guide him. Paul knew God wasn’t finished with him or with the puzzle. He trusted God to put the puzzle together correctly and to put him in his proper, pre-appointed place in the puzzle when the time was right. Paul knew God was putting something together that was bigger than just himself. It’s like Peter said in 1 Peter 2:4-5,
“As you come to Him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
One stone does not a house make. It takes many stones in the hands of a builder to create a building. It takes many puzzle pieces in the hands of a puzzler to complete a finished puzzle. The stones have to trust the builder to put them where they belong. The puzzle pieces have to trust the puzzler to put them in the space created just for them. When I am puzzling over where I fit in, trying desperately to find that space made just for me, I can trust my Heavenly Father because He alone knows what the finished picture will be. I trust Him to lead me and to put me right where He wants me to be. I can trust God because He is the perfect puzzler. His puzzling always results in perfection. In fact I read in Romans 8:28,
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
God is good. God works for the good in the lives of those who love Him. Of this truth, Paul was certain even while he lived in an uncertain world. You and I too, dear readers, live in a glaringly uncertain world at the moment. Yet we too, can say with Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”
My Heavenly Father created all life, He gave me life, He sustains my life, He fills my life with His Presence, – He is the One who guards my life and leads me to the place in His puzzle that He has been preparing for me all along. He is preparing a place for you, too, dear readers. Even though life today is chaotic, confusing and uncertain, in the hands of the Master Puzzler it will all come out right.
As I experience all the events of this present time in history, I shake my head and say along with the King of Siam, “is a puzzlement.”
then I fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, and I say, I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day. And I say along with Job,
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
life – is a puzzlement – but I know and I trust the Maker and the Master of this puzzle that is life . . .
sincerely, Grace Day