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WPC Pulse - May 2015

The Puzzling Pieces of Our Lives
by Ruth Bates, MD

On addiction to puzzles...

There are many things in this world to get addicted to, but I discovered a new one recently – jigsaw puzzles. Or rather one particular puzzle (if you’re interested, it’s a 1,000 piece Norman Rockwell “At the Doctor”) which combined seas of variegated gray-green with devilishly cunning piece arrangement – the better to mislead the unsuspecting puzzler. And all the symptoms of addiction were there: obsession, denial, loss of control, withdrawal from other more important activities. For about two weeks, when I closed my eyes, I saw gray-green.

Fortunately, the symptoms dissipated immediately with the soft “plip” of that last piece falling into place. I have now fully recovered, but the experience did leave me with some new insights into puzzles as an illustration of the Christian life. Or perhaps this is just residual obsessing...but bear with me.

It occurred to me that the big picture of life is quite often a mystery as God gives us one little piece at a time. I’m not even sure that God shows us the box-front picture and, if so, only at a distance. In isolation, many things just don’t make sense. I recall one particularly puzzling piece (pun about 64 percent intended) that looked exactly like a clown’s nose and the existence of that discordant piece bothered me to no little extent.

In the same way, God often hands us pieces of life’s puzzle that make no sense, defy our logic and decrease rather than increase our understanding of the whole. We may be tempted to question the kindness of the Puzzlemaker (“Perhaps He stuck in an erroneous piece just to confuse us.”) or His wisdom (“Was no one paying attention when this box was packed?”). Of all the pieces of our lives, that misshapen one – whatever it happens to be – is the one we pick up over and over and still can’t make sense of. But indeed all things do work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and when turned 90 degrees that piece – taken within the context of several others – suddenly became a medicine bottle. The transformation was so astonishing, I had to prove it to myself several times.

As far as I’m aware, the only time-honored rule of puzzle completion is “Start with the edge pieces.” But when faced with the scattered pieces of God’s confusing providence, how often do we recall the defining “edges” of our lives – those ever straight, unchanging and unchangeable aspects of God’s character within which our lives make sense?

When faced with yet another piece of inexplicable gray or featureless black, we can be certain that its place in our lives is somewhere between, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you...’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV 2011) and “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases” (Lamentations 3:22a, ESV). No dangling pieces in God’s design.

Wiser people than me have thought about these realities before, but they more often expressed themselves in terms of weaving rather than puzzles. In closing, I want to share with you a poem that has seen my family through many tough times.

The Weaver (author unknown)
My life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.

Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.”

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