The Jigsaw Puzzle of Life

My brother Craig and I went through a period when we bought each other jigsaw puzzles for Christmas and birthdays. The best part of the game (for him at least) was to find the most difficult puzzles. One year he gave me a puzzle comprising dozens of goldfish on a blue background. A little challenging? Try it with no straight edges and five extra pieces that look like they belong but don’t actually fit in the puzzle. I was making as much progress as a mouse pushing an elephant uphill until my friend Megan helped me out.

Another puzzle my brother gave me consisted of dozens of emperor penguins, so it’s largely black and white. This one at least had edges. The kicker was that it’s square, double-sided, with the same image printed on the reverse side – and rotated 90 degrees!

Megan and I have also enjoyed putting numerous jigsaw puzzles together, including a puzzle with no picture on the box lid, one almost entirely composed of black animals, and a photo-mosaic map of the world. The map was actually the hardest. It was definitely a two-person puzzle, needing each of us to encourage the other as enthusiasm and energy ebbed and flowed. If I’d just been on my own, I might never have finished it.

Jigsaws have the ability to drive you crazy with frustration and lack of progress, and yet every time you set a piece in the correct location, fitting snug with its neighbours, there’s a sense of satisfaction.

Have you ever noticed how life can seem like a jigsaw puzzle? So many things happen in our lives that we can’t seem to make sense of, that don’t seem to have a place or purpose. We can’t see how they fit together, and there’s no picture on the box showing us exactly what the whole puzzle is supposed to look like.

Sometimes we manage to fit a few pieces together, and we get excited because we think we know what we’re doing now. We think we know what to expect. Until we try to fit the next piece somewhere and discover that we have no clue.

When I started writing this post, I wanted to focus on God as the Master puzzle maker. The one who knows every piece of the puzzle and how it fits together. He knows how beautiful they all are because he designed them with care and love. I wanted to talk about how we can trust him with the pieces of our life even when we don’t understand how they fit together. And I still think that’s true, but something else emerged while I was writing, something else I needed to see. Perhaps you’ve already noticed it?

Puzzles are easier and generally more fun when I tackle them with someone else and not just on my own. When it’s getting tough we help each other out, lift one another up when we’re getting discouraged. That photo mosaic map of the world? At times that got so tough that we’d need to take a break from it. One of us kept going while other had a rest, and soon energy and enthusiasm would return and we’d make some more progress.

And that’s how we’ve been designed to do life – with each other. Each of us helping each other and spurring one another on. We need each other, especially when life hands us the pieces that don’t seem to fit.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

(And Megan, if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for the many hours we’ve enjoyed together on those puzzles, and thank you for showing me this truth about life.)

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