Sometimes I think God’s will is like a puzzle that needs to be completed. Find all the right pieces, put them in the right order, and voila!: A completed picture of His plan and purpose for my life.
Our family enjoys a good jigsaw puzzle. When my husband and I went on our honeymoon 9 years ago, we began collecting jigsaw puzzles as souvenirs. We’d pick them up at the places we visited as a way to foster togetherness and memories long after the trip was over.
It’s a tradition we’ve continued with the kids over the years. Most recently we collected some from Philadelphia, Williamsburg and the Chesapeake Bay, giving us numerous choices for family nights.
In reality, putting a puzzle together as a family is not as charming as it sounds. We all approach the puzzle with different styles and varying attention spans. What typically happens is the children help with the sorting of the outside edges and the inside pieces, and with the assembly of the frame. Then, their interest wanes, and before we know it, it’s bedtime. Over the next several days, I’ll sit down at the table where the puzzle is and put a few pieces in while I drink my coffee or finish my lunch. Maybe we’ll give it a second “go” as a family before we finish it, leave it on display for a day or so and then put it away.
The last couple of puzzles we’ve done have been tricky. Some similarly shaped pieces have seemed to fit in multiple places, and only when we place more pieces in the puzzle do we discover the error and have to move them.
The pieces seemed to fit, but the picture didn’t look quite right.
This is how I’ve been feeling about life.
Like there is a pile of related pieces sitting on the table, waiting to be assembled into a masterpiece. If only I can find the right ones and put them all in the right places.
Except some of them are missing.
Or are pieces to a different puzzle.
And I have no picture on a box to guide me.
I get mad at God for this, thinking He’s making this more complicated then it needs to be. Just give me all the pieces and time and some hints and I’ll figure this out and then I’ll know what the picture is supposed to be, thank You very much, God.
But I labor and put some of the pieces in the wrong place because they seem like a close fit only to discover later that something else belonged there. And then I have to move the pieces around.
Sometimes the picture starts to look clear and sometimes I look at it so long I have no actual clue what it is I’m putting together. And sometimes I want to shove all the pieces off the table and walk away altogether.
But what if God’s will, His plan for my life, is less like a puzzle and more like a tapestry?
What if He’s weaving something beautiful and what it will yet be is unknown?
One of my favorite songs right now is by JJ Heller. It’s called “Scarlet Thread.” The chorus goes like this:
I am a mess of stitch and string
There is a scarlet thread woven through me
When everything’s unraveling
There is a scarlet thread woven through me
You can listen to the entire song here:
What if instead of handing me a pile of pieces to try to figure out, instead God has given me a canvas? Or some scraps of fabric? Or spools of thread? What if what I’m meant to be, what I’m becoming, hasn’t been decided yet? What if it is still in progress?
And what if there’s no exact pattern for the Artist to follow? What if He’s taking all of it–the perfectly aligned stitches, the beautiful patterns, the tangled threads, and the mismatched fabrics–and making something unique?
What if I don’t have to figure out what He’s doing?
This is the question that haunts me the most. Because I always want to know what God is up to. I want answers for the hurt and the heartbreak. I want answers when my life goes off the course I had planned. I want to know for sure that this life of mine is going to turn out alright. (And by alright, I mean, free of suffering and hardship and pain.)
I want to know that the mistakes aren’t fatal to the project, aka my life.
I want to know that the ugly scraps are still useful and that they haven’t ruined everything.
I want to know that the tangled threads can be sorted out and contribute to the beauty of the creation.
If this is how God’s will is, I have less control over it. (Let’s think about this for a minute: Did I really have that much control anyway?)
If there’s a puzzle to solve, then I have to figure it out myself and put forth the effort.
If there’s a masterpiece in progress, then I have to live my life and trust that the Artist is making sense of it all. (This makes me want to go watch some Bob Ross episodes on Netflix. Maybe what I think are blotches of paint are really “happy little trees.”)
I’m not saying I have no say in my life. Please don’t think that. I’m just saying that maybe it’s less about finding all the right pieces to the puzzle and more about finding beauty even in the mistakes and risks and failures.
Maybe it’s less about getting it right and more about living life.
I know I’ve mixed metaphors here, and maybe I’m totally off-base about the will of God and His plans and purposes. All I know is that when I look at my life like JJ Heller describes, as a tangled mess but still with a scarlet thread running through it, I feel more free. Less frustrated.
What about you? Does life feel like a puzzle to solve? Or do you see it more as a in-progress masterpiece?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.