I'm doing battle with the feelings that cause me to identify with Naomi's words at the end of the first chapter of the book of Ruth.
Don't call me Sandra (strong, intelligent, compassionate). Call me Beylke (weak, troubled, old), because the Almighty has filled my life with overwhelming trials. I went to Prague excited and energized and the LORD has brought me back weary and worn. Why call me Sandra? The LORD has laid me low; the Almighty has stretched me beyond endurance.
I've been running to the Father, pleading for understanding. I want desperately to make sense of what's happening. And if (read that since) I can't take in every detail and all the purposes behind each one, I at least want some idea of where I'm going.
In the midst of a particularly difficult patch of struggle the other day I decided to work on a jigsaw puzzle to distract my thoughts.
HAH, some of you are saying. "You've got to be kidding. I hate puzzles."
Please bear with me because God used what you might call an added strain to deliver some heart-level insights.
I dumped the puzzle pieces onto the table top with a sigh. The description on the box told me there were 500 pieces that would fit into a 20"x20" space. I felt pretty sure about getting the job done except for NOTE: Puzzle illustration is different from box cover.
I had no picture to follow so I had no idea what I was building.
At first that wasn't a problem as I simply separated out the edge pieces. I went to work on the border but with so many pieces of only two basic colors my confidence slipped. I decided to turn all the pieces right side up instead. I began gathering like colors together - the reds, the blues, the yellow, the greens. It wasn't long before I started recognizing the skin of an orange, a pineapple, a pepper. I made a small pile of pieces that looked like leaves from lettuce and carrots.
Part of my mind concentrated on sorting and making sense of the project. Another part kept trying to push ahead to figure out what the final picture, the illustration I was supposed to match, actually looked like. It would certainly make the job much easier and success more likely.
Now, stick with me here. If you're facing any of the kinds of life challenges I am, there's more to this puzzle than a picture.
After a while I needed a break. I went for a glass of water. When I returned to the table I was surprised by the progress I saw.
Portions of the puzzle were materializing out of the helter-skelter. Fruits and vegetables were taking shape. I still had no idea what the final picture would be, but the hope of success encouraged me to continue.
One part of my brain had been toiling away making sense of the separate piles of pieces. The other part had been concentrating on the search for overall meaning. They were working in tandem with the one not seeming to hinder the other at all.
Hmmmm . . .
I spent a few minutes trying to complete the border and gave up again. The more interesting challenge was figuring out how to combine the small completed portions into a coherent image. The concentration I applied slowly but surely built into an overall awareness. The oranges connected to the peppers. The pineapple leaves led to the rest of the greenery.
When a bloody knife appeared next to the plate of cheese cake I knew it was time to orient the picture itself. And so right side up came into being. Then all that was left was the rest of the border, much easier to do at this point, and the single black and white sections of the floor.
I sat back to enjoy the result of my labors. The Holy Spirit continued to whisper to me.
Maybe there is some cross-over application to be made from this time of relaxation.
Could the part of me that needs to respond to the every day challenges of living in a fallen world be compared to the skill of putting together the colorful portions? Might the other part of me that needs to find clarity and meaning in all of life be similar to the desire to have an image of the puzzle to complete?
Is it possible for me to be able to function amidst the daily collection of ups and downs as I wrestle in earnest with being able to understand the larger issues of life? Can I continue to move forward when I have no idea what the future looks like?
If my jigsaw puzzle experience holds true, and I believe it does, the answer is a resounding YES.
"In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me." Jonah 2:2
How I praise and thank my Abba Father for His loving plans for me.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4