My parents used to have a card table set up in the corner of our basement. The table often had pieces of a jigsaw puzzle scattered across it and the empty box propped up so we could see the picture. We would work to put all those pieces together to make a beautiful masterpiece. Usually, the puzzles were nature pictures- a babbling brook in the middle of the woods or a magnificent waterfall. Although I wasn’t a big fan of puzzles, I often found myself sifting through the countless pieces searching for the ‘all blue one’ or the one that had a bit of the sky and a bit of the trees. There was something therapeutic about turning all those ‘pieces’ into a ‘whole’. When you picked up a single piece, it didn’t look like much; however, when you fit all those pieces perfectly together, you could see the whole picture and all those individual pieces made sense.
Everyone has a different strategy. Some are very methodical and find all the corner and edge pieces first. Some take a different approach and find all the pieces that seem to match, like the blue ones that made the ocean, and build from the inside out. Some seem to have no strategy at all and pick up random pieces to see if they fit. Although one may find that a certain strategy works better or gets the job done faster; in the end, they all work. The puzzle is complete and the picture is clear.
At the cancer center where I had treatment, there was a card table with a puzzle on it in the waiting room. Instead of sitting in a chair while waiting to be called for chemo, some patients sat at the table and worked on the puzzle. One time, the room was pretty full so I sat down at that puzzle table and contributed a few pieces to the cause. It was a pretty picture – a bunch of colorful sailboats floating on the water. My name was called and I went to my appointment. When I came back the next time, I glanced over at the table hoping to see the finished sailboat puzzle but it was a picture of two baby deer in a grassy meadow. An older woman wearing a scarf to cover her head left smooth from treatment was concentrating on finding the brown pieces that made the baby deer. When she got called back, an older gentleman with an oxygen tank rolled up to the table in his wheelchair and started working on the blue sky. I wondered how many patients worked together on those puzzles, not knowing who was responsible for which pieces, picking up where another left off and with only a few ever seeing the end result of their work. Still, every time I was in that office, someone was always working at that puzzle table. I think that we, as patients, found putting those pieces back into place was a reminder that although we were broken at the moment, we were doing what we could to put ourselves back together again.
We are all like those jigsaw puzzles. We just don’t get to see the picture on the box while we build our puzzles. Only God knows what that picture looks like and how our pieces fit together. He has a master plan. All those little pieces may not make sense to us now but one day, those pieces will come together and it will all become clear and it will be amazing. Nothing is an accident. No event is unplanned. Even the bad stuff is part of our puzzles. Those dark pieces blend in with the light ones to make one beautiful picture. We just don’t understand that until the puzzle starts to come together.
We go through life assembling our pieces. Some of us try to build a foundation, plan things out… like the person who finds all the corners and edges first. Some of us jump in with both feet and figure it out once we get there… like the person who starts in the middle and works their way out. Some of us go through life without direction and somehow muddle through… like the person who tries random pieces to see if they fit. Our lives don’t come with directions. We have to find our own way. It may be difficult at times but we have to trust that our box came with the right number of pieces. We have to have faith that the picture on our box is beautiful, even when we can’t see it. We have to know that God will always be there to help us put all our pieces together, even when they don’t seem to fit.
Just like the puzzles at the cancer center, our pieces are put together by many different people. Some will form your edges. Some will fill up your insides. Some will add a piece and walk away. Some will still be there when your puzzle is complete. Some will tear a few pieces away but there will always be someone else who will put those pieces back together again. We can only be “whole” if we have all our “pieces”, the good and the bad. Our pieces tell our story and our experiences paint our picture. Whether good or bad, the experiences we share with others become a part of their puzzles and affect their pictures. Our actions serve to build up or to break apart puzzles too. We really do have the power to add beauty to the picture on their box or to strip away a few pieces so that their picture may never be complete. Unkind words, selfish actions and lack of caring can forever change someone’s picture. Think about how easily a small puzzle piece can be lost and how frustrating it is to work on a 1000 piece puzzle only to find there are only 997 pieces in the box. We should do our best to remember that we are all brothers and sisters and God wants us to take care of each other. God wants us to walk through this life, gathering our pieces and fitting them together while helping to complete the puzzles of others… with caring, with compassion and with love. When we help others to gather their pieces, we also help the pictures on our puzzle boxes become even more beautiful. My wish for everyone reading this is that your box is full of all the right pieces and you are blessed with many who will help you fit them together. May God bless all the ‘puzzle builders’ in this world.