Joy in Spite of a Limited View
Joy in Spite of a Limited View
by MarJanita Geigley
This article first appeared in the May/June 2016 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
I enjoy planning parties and am always on the lookout for good group games that don’t require a lot of preparation and supplies. Just recently, I discovered a fun one that only needs two kiddie-style puzzles. To play, a group of people needs to be divided into two teams, and then each team is given a puzzle. Finally, each player is given a few pieces from his team’s puzzle and must work at fitting his pieces together with the others on the team in order to be the first team finished. This game is fun because it is competitive and harder than it looks. When you only have one or two pieces, it is hard to figure out how those belong in the big picture.
Sometimes life feels a lot like this game: God has given each of us a puzzle piece and that is all we are able to see and know. Allow me to take my piece out and look at it. Here, I’ll even show it to you. It has four sides. One side is straight; two sides have indentations where other puzzle pieces can join mine; and the last side is intended to join another piece. I have many colors on my piece - a spot of yellow, a corner of sky blue, a faint hue of neon green, and quite a bit of dark-toned grays, purples, and browns. A thin line runs diagonally across the piece. Is it part of a tree branch or is it a mountain? Is it the roof of a building or is it a flower? Your guess is as good as mine.
It is frustrating to not know what the entire puzzle looks like. I feel worried about what the dark shadows on my piece represent. How and where do I fit into the puzzle exactly? Because I have space on my piece to join with other pieces, does it mean that I am reserved for a “special” partner piece or is it there because I am called to join and serve a particular mission and people?
See, we are human - we really do not know a lot. Oh yes, God can give us dreams and intuitions, but we still cannot sit down and write in exact detail where we’ll be living, what we’ll be doing, and with whom we’ll be associating in twenty years. To a control freak like me, that is unsettling; so I clutch my piece and frantically start to design my own puzzle. I saw this happen a lot when I worked as an activities associate in the dementia unit at a local retirement home. Sometimes, a few of the residents and I would attempt to put together a puzzle. They would take pieces that could almost fit together and then do the puzzle-smashing technique. But instead of a clean fit, the puzzle pieces were forced together awkwardly with pieces that were either too small or too large.
Admit it, we all do a little puzzle smashing. I think that blue color on my puzzle piece represents a new job I really want, even though I have not yet asked God if it does. Everyone tells me it is past time I joined up with a partner piece so I grab the first one I see and ignore the warning signs of an imperfect fit.
Or depending on my mood for the day, I do the exact opposite of puzzle-smashing and do something called puzzle-hiding. I pull the puzzle piece over my head and try to disappear because I know there are scary colors that have hurt me in the past and I also know there will be more in the future.
Are we alone in our confusing small views? Definitely not!
Mary asked, “How can I have a child? I’m a virgin.”
Moses protested, “You want me to be the leader of a couple thousand people? I can’t even speak well.”
Sarah struggled with the angel’s news: “Have a child!? I’m old enough to be a great-grandma!”
Naaman was baffled: “I must go swimming in muddy water to be healed from leprosy?”
Martha wrestled with unfair circumstances: “Lord, my brother wouldn’t have died if You had been here.”
Peter was confused: “You can’t be taken, Jesus. You’re the Messiah. How can You save the world by being crucified?”
Today is my cousin’s viewing. The funeral is tomorrow. Thirty years ago, she was dead at the time of her birth. Hospital staff managed to start her breathing again; however, it had taken too long and permanent damage had been done. For thirty years, she spent life in a human shell, needing to be fed through tubes and unable to speak or do anything for herself. We believe she could hear and understand more than anyone realized because she would often make laughter noises when something humorous was said or cry when in pain. Do thirty years of her pain, entrapment, and helplessness make complete sense to me? No, a thousand times, no! But that is because all I can see is a tiny piece of the puzzle.
How can we be filled with peace, joy, and security even though it is natural to be filled with worry, bitterness, and frustration?
The first step is to let go of our puzzle piece. Whether we are puzzle-smashing or puzzle-hiding, it is because our fingers are grasping onto the piece so tightly that our knuckles are turning white. Sing with me, “Let it go, Let it go!” It seems like a contradiction that by opening our fingers, we gain, but that is the way God planned it to be. When we give our piece to God, we have security and peace knowing that He will put the picture all together perfectly, and one day, He will show it to us. That does not mean the dark colors will go away, but it does mean that we now have Someone Who will hold our hand.
As a child, I hated thunderstorms (actually, I still do), but being with my daddy made it better; not safer, not less rain, not fewer thunderclaps or flashes of lightning, but better because there was someone bigger than me who loved me and would be with me through the storm. Our house could have still been flooded, I could have still been struck by lightning, a tornado still could have come twisting along and taken everything I loved, but my daddy would have been with me no matter what happened. That is peace and security. And when we have those two elements in our lives, we can be filled with joy, because joy isn’t dependent on our surroundings and situations. It is dependent on our trust in our Father. Joy allowed Horatio Spafford to write, “It Is Well With My Soul” even after he had lost his business in a fire and heard the news that his four daughters had been killed by a storm at sea. Joy allowed martyr women to sing amidst beatings, rackings, tongue screws, beheadings, drownings, and burnings at the stake. How? Because they knew that God held their puzzle piece and had a purpose higher than their pain and suffering. They knew that no matter what happened, God loved them and had something better in store than they could ever imagine. Joy allows us to smile despite chemo treatments, a loved one’s death, financial difficulty, betrayment by a spouse, and our puzzle pieces’ darkest shadows. Joy isn’t a gushy feeling or being happy all the time, but it is the peace and security that comes from trust in our Father and allows us to say, “It is well with my soul.”
One day, our pieces will all fit perfectly and we will be brought together as the Puzzle-Maker unveils the finished puzzle; a picture so beautiful that no words will be adequate to describe it. We’ll understand those dark spots and see that there truly was a purpose in each tone, color, shape, and character of our puzzle piece. But for now, we can take joy in the small glimpses God gives us each day as He lifts the corner of the sheet covering the puzzle and allows us to enjoy a child’s giggle, a rainbow, a promise from His Word, a hug, a song on the radio at just the right time, a tree’s rebirth after a long winter.
As my cousin, Judy, is finally able to walk and sing for the first time in thirty years, I think she has been shown a little of the meaning to her puzzle piece.
I still do not know very much about my puzzle piece, but every day, the Puzzle-Maker holds my hand, fills my heart with joy, and gives me glimpses of the puzzle’s beauty. And that is enough!