One day while out walking early in the morning on a well-used road but not one of the main roads, I saw all along the side of the road pieces of a puzzle. It went on for ten, fifteen, twenty yards scattered out everywhere on the side of the road. Each of the pieces was about the size of a quarter, less than a 50-cent piece. In the early morning light, I paused long enough to pick up a few of them because they were scattered over grassy places, water holes, and the like on the side of the road.
I knew I couldn’t pick up all of them or make sense out of them, but I got some of them and continued my walk. My guess is that somebody had thrown out a jigsaw puzzle that was probably a thousand-piece puzzle, but why they would do it and where they did it were other puzzles. As I walked along looking at the day ahead and the days gone by, I thought about how many times life seems to be pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
I even thought about how in the Bible it looks like there are moments that life is like a jigsaw puzzle. When you look at the disciples as Jesus is moving toward His last hours and the cross, the disciples themselves are scattered all over the place. Some of them seem to disappear. Others followed Jesus at a distance. They were scattered around for sure.
Jesus fed the 5,000 and then as the crowd waited for the next miracle or the next feeding, they began to drift away to the point that no one was left but the disciples. Jesus said, “Will you go away also” (John 6:67)? The great crowd of people who came to hear Him speak were now scattered everywhere like a puzzle on the side of the road. I thought about how many times in our individual lives that life does seem like a collection of jigsaw puzzle pieces.
Maybe each piece represents a day or an hour or maybe a minute of life. Each one of them is stamped with a different experience. It could have been a sickness or a wreck or a decision or a painful breakup or a brief picture of getting a job or losing a job. On and on, life’s little snippet pieces come together like a jigsaw puzzle.
I know people who are experts at jigsaw puzzles and can put them together in a hurry. I know other people can’t get them together at all — a whole lot like life. Some of you may be somewhat like me in putting a jigsaw puzzle together. We may see ourselves as the guy who spent all day for three days putting one small jigsaw puzzle together. When he got it all put together, somebody asked him why it took so long. He said, “What do you mean, ‘…took so long?’ The box says three to four years and I did it in three days.” Of course, the box was referring to the age of the children that were supposed to be putting the puzzle together and not the time required for an adult to put it together, but you know how we feel.
Jigsaw puzzles were invented back in the 1700s. The inventors pasted maps to wood and then cut out the wood so that it could be put back together. Now jigsaw puzzles have become an industry unto themselves. You can get them with 100 or 500 or 1,000 or 1,500 pieces and it really gets to be challenging. May I point out to you that life’s jigsaw puzzle is always challenging? As you think about jigsaw puzzles and putting life’s pieces together, there are some important points to keep in mind.
One is that a single piece of a jigsaw puzzle does not tell the entire story of your life. That’s a good thing to remember because sometimes when you stumble and fall, stump your toe, and stop in the pain of hurt or even achieve climbing to the top of the mountain, one piece does not tell the entire story of your life. Failure is not always final, but neither is glorious victory. The last chapter of most lives, life is a mixture. Everybody you know will have down days and difficult moments. Most everyone will have a day when they achieve something wonderful. Maybe something that nobody else has done. Maybe something that you’ve never accomplished before, but it’s one piece of the entire puzzle of life.
Second is that a lack of one piece in the puzzle does not mean that the puzzle is ruined. One piece is significant, but the loss of one piece does not mean that the puzzle cannot be seen and understood. I saw a puzzle some time ago that was one of these with over 1,000 pieces. The people who put it together had kept it together, matted and framed, but it had one piece missing. They never could find it. Maybe somebody just lost it, or it may have come from the manufacturer that way. They kept the puzzle intact and had it framed and hanging up with one piece missing. Why?
I don’t know all the reasons, but one of things that they pointed out is that anybody who comes and looks at that picture, that’s what they focus on. What isn’t there. Far less than one percent of the total picture was in that one missing piece but that’s what people see. We seem to have that kind of focus in our lives.When you think about David, the great king of Israel, you’re not thinking about his royal achievements or his military brilliance. You look at the missing piece. Or the outstanding disciple of Jesus, Simon he was named, and Jesus renamed him Peter, the rock. We remember and see the missing testimony for Jesus when he denied Him. One missing piece is not all of life. It doesn’t ruin the total picture, but a lot of people only look at that.
Third is that if a piece or two is missing, you may can find something to fill in that spot but more importantly, God in His amazing love and redemptive power, He comes through His Son, Jesus, to fill in the deficiencies, the missing pieces, the absent parts of our lives. Thanks be to God that He could take you and me and David and Simon Peter and Samson and Abraham and the list is the endless story of humanity that gets scattered out on the roads of life. Only God can put us together in a meaningful way. A jigsaw puzzle is not easy to put together. Neither is this day in your life, but the requirement is not to know all the pieces and how they fit together in their strange configurations but to look to Jesus, following Him and taking the next meaningful step for Him and with Him. God bless you this day as you follow Him.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral