I don’t tend to be a patient person when it comes to completing tasks. When I start working on something, I want it DONE. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve never enjoyed putting puzzles together. Unless they’re the 24-piece kind my toddler granddaughters put together, they just take too long!
However, puzzles are somewhat of a tradition in the Cinquemani family. Every holiday, you could be sure a new puzzle was purchased just for the occasion. Pastoral scenes, cityscapes, food, pets – the picture didn’t matter. It was a family activity—each person contributing to the conversations around the table that made it a treasured part of our gathering.
There is ritual in building a puzzle. Finding the corners, laying out the flat pieces for the frame, separating the colors, and watching the picture begin to emerge. I may sit around the table for the chat and casually look over the pieces laid out. However, my interest only became piqued when the puzzle was about ¾ of the way through. At that point, I could see the end in sight. A little work, and we’d be done. The puzzle would be complete!
One year when we celebrated Christmas at our house, we were at that point in the puzzle building. Only a few pieces were left, and it would be done. Except the worst thing imaginable happened. The final piece was missing! Wait a minute! This was a NEW puzzle! We searched all around the table and on the floor, but there was no puzzle piece to be found. What a huge let down, what a terrible frustration. For a task-oriented person, this was torture!
It was just before I was ready to fling the puzzle back in the box and pitch the whole thing in the garbage when my son – probably about six-years-old at the time – walked up to the table with a big smile on his face, took the missing piece from his pocket, and placed it in the awaiting opening. That little stinker! He had stolen a piece off the table when the puzzle was first opened and waited with joyful anticipation of placing the final piece and completing the work.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of situations in my life with missing pieces. There are many people who contribute to the ritual, adding pieces to the journey as my story develops. Sometimes the final piece doesn’t form a satisfactory picture, and sometimes there are puzzles that remain incomplete far beyond my comfort level. That’s when fear, pain, or doubt makes me want to turn over the table and give up.
I am confident that God accepts and understands my frustration. Just like the joy I saw on my son’s face as he revealed the final piece, I believe God radiates with joy when completing puzzles in my life that are joyful. However, I also believe there are holy tears and sadness when the outcome is a picture wrecked by the results of sin in my world and the final piece placed is simply a reminder that I am not alone.
Though I may not always understand the finished picture, I will continue to trust the wisdom of the final pieces set in place in my life’s puzzles. Maybe it’s the most difficult puzzles in my life that will help me contribute to the beauty of the puzzles of others on which I am privileged to participate.