If Life Is a Puzzle Why Don’t I Have All the Pieces?

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I love jigsaw puzzles. I usually only do them during the holidays or on vacation because I know that if one was out more often, I’d never get anything else done.

800px-WhimsyJigsaw puzzles are one of those things you either love or hate. One of the reasons I love them is because of the satisfaction I feel when things fit together and something beautiful emerges from the chaos. For others though, the chaos is just too much.

Life can feel like that sometimes – like a giant puzzle with all the pieces in a chaotic jumble, where the task of sorting them is overwhelming, and there’s a nagging thought that you might not have all the pieces. I believe all of us face times like that; it’s the nature of being human.

As challenging as it may seem though, sorting those pieces is one of the most important things we can do because we live in a world that offers us a seemingly infinite number of pieces to choose from – some good, others not so good. And how we put the pieces of our life-puzzle together makes a big difference. What we believe really does matter.

People put their life-puzzle pieces together in all kinds of ways. Many terrorists and extremists have particular beliefs about God. Their faith is in a certain kind of God, and what they believe makes a huge difference in the way they act and what kind of violence they’re willing to instigate. The pieces they use to put their life-puzzle together have a huge impact on the entire world, and the picture they create when all the pieces come together is one of viciousness and hatred.

Jesus understood how difficult it is to face a chaotic jumble of puzzle pieces. He knew that in a world of seemingly infinite pieces, he was the piece most badly needed and he came to offer us a piece of the puzzle that the world can never offer. His whole life was about empowering people to fit the pieces of their life-puzzle together in a way that creates a God-pleasing, life-enhancing picture.

He spoke that message in so many ways. He called himself the Bread of Life – if we come to him we’ll never be hungry again. He called himself Living Water – if we drink the water he offers we’ll never be thirsty again. He called himself the gate for the sheep – if we enter the gate we’ll find green pastures. If the Jews of the first century had been jigsaw puzzle people like I am, he probably would have said, “I’m the missing piece. If you fit me into your life-puzzle, your picture will come together in an entirely new way.”

For me, one of the most frustrating parts of putting a jigsaw puzzle together is that many of the pieces look maddeningly similar. You find a piece and your heart leaps – Aha! This is it! You take the piece, look at it closely, look at the empty spot where you’re convinced that it fits; then you try to place it, but somehow it doesn’t fit. The shape is close, but not quite right.

When we fit the Jesus-piece into our life-puzzle, the picture that begins to emerge is always new and different. We can see a God-pleasing, life-enhancing image slowly being formed. Yet a chaotic jumble of pieces often still remains. That’s where we can become frustrated and discouraged; because though some of the remaining pieces fit into a Christ centered life-puzzle, others may look like they do, but actually don’t.

Recognizing that a piece doesn’t actually fit is never easy. I’ve put puzzles together and gotten to the very end only to realize that something, somewhere, was completely wrong. Somewhere there was a piece – quite possibly more than one – that I wanted to fit when it really didn’t; and though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had pushed and squeezed and wiggled to get it to fit, but it was never quite right.

Humans have always lived in a world that offers a wide array of pieces for our life-puzzle. Some fit well. Others only seem to have the right shape. Sometimes it even feels as though some pieces are completely missing. The good news of the Jesus way is that he sticks with us as we sort through the chaotic jumble – offering that bread of life, that living water, that missing piece.

Sticking with us even when we need to dismantle the puzzle and begin again.

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Kimberly Reisman is an author, pastor, teacher and theologian serving as Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism of the World Methodist Council. Prior to beginning at WME, Kim served in local churches, as Executive Director of Next Step Evangelism and General Editor for WesleyanAccent.com. She is a frequent speaker, focusing on evangelism, spiritual formation, women's ministries, leadership development and the intersection between faith and culture. Kim is an elder in the United Methodist Church and has written numerous books, most recently, The Christ-Centered Woman: Finding Balance in a World of Extremes (2013, Abingdon Press). Kim is also an Adjunct Professor at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and The School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.

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