puzzling pieces

Puzzling isn’t it …

how some events first experienced as negatives turn out to be special blessings   …

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…   how pieces that don’t seem to fit in the beginning turn out to be important links holding other pieces in place, or provide nuanced shading which brings the whole into better focus, or help us see things we would not otherwise see   …

These initially questionable pieces are often key in the formation of our souls.  As time goes by, they slowly fall into place to reveal what God has been doing behind the scenes.  In the end, we see how they have been just as necessary in the creation of a picture with no holes into the holy likeness of Jesus being formed in us as were those pieces we readily accepted as positive.

If we can resist making quick judgements about the ‘goodness’ of that which meets us each day; if we can wait patiently to see how this situation or that seeming sacrifice plays out in the end, we will eventually see that everything is used by the Spirit to restore us to the  whole persons he already sees us to be in Christ.

When our eldest child was born with significant developmental delays, we found ourselves on a steep learning curve.  Our emotions swerved between joy and fear.  Our anticipated dreams of raising a child who would grow to become independent were demoted to the more realistic view of her needing lifelong support.  It was a puzzle piece we hadn’t expected to find in the picture of our lives, but there it was … a mix of unfamiliar colours including medical interventions and individualized educational requirements sitting on the table alongside the other more familiar border pieces framing our plans for the future.

Some thirty years later, I smile at those early days and our need for considerable consolation in light of the countless hallelujahs she has inspired.  Her presence has been a great blessing in our family and beyond.  She lives out the meaning of her name, ‘a gift from God’, and enriches the lives of those she touches in unexpected and life impacting ways.

Integrating this puzzling piece into the whole of my being took time.  It was a process of wrestling with difficult theological paradoxes in the concrete cradle of caring for a child made in the image of God who would never keep up with societal expectations of proving herself worthy through a worldly measure of success.  It was a process of settling that God makes no mistakes, that he takes what others may deem to miss the mark of perfection and shape it into something beautiful, an integral part of the whole.

This preliminarily painful yet profound agent of transforming grace nudges me to keep discovering at a core level that we are all dependent children with special needs in light of an incomprehensibly great God who holds all things together in Christ apart from our doing.  We are loved and accepted because we are his beloved children, not because we have to first prove ourselves.  We are free to rest in his care, participate in the greater human story with the uniqueness of our lives, and offer others the invitation to do the same as we all wait for the full unveiling of God’s handiwork in our lives as one body.

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The same principle is at play in the life of faith communities.

We may be more inclined to embrace certain pieces of the sometimes puzzling realities of congregational life and leadership than certain others.  And its true … some things really do need to be recognized and addressed as simply not fitting with the puzzle of a people committed to following Christ.

Yet, if we can keep from judging too quickly; if we can keep from dismissing details we would naturally avoid as unimportant; if we can consider others with all their differences as being more important than ourselves; if we can allow for mystery, we will eventually stand in worship as a community who has seen the beauty of Christ’s reconciling grace shape a people into an ever clearer reflection of himself to the praise of his glorious love:  the picture of a maturing church with all its diverse unity will emerge, cracks and all, to show and tell the good news of redemption.

Christ takes the confusing colour schemes of our ups and downs and blends them  together for good to form a pleasing image which takes seriously our brokenness, but also mends and heals us.

When Jesus spoke of his imminent death, his disciples could not imagine what he meant and wanted to throw out this piece before it could mess up the picture they had in mind … it turned out to be the saving key to all of history, his story and ours.

What puzzling piece might you need to take a fresh look at?

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‘Lord, to each one holding a piece which baffles or is experienced as a burden, a piece which may be difficult to incorporate into the greater framework of what they envision for themselves or their ministries, give a willingness to wait with the tension of uncertainty until your good purpose for its presence can be seen.   Increase our faith to anticipate these pieces as blessings when we accept your picture for our lives above our own.

And in the perplexing, sometimes painful days of wrestling to come to terms with its place in our lives, hold each one in your reassuring love that all is falling into place as you have designed for our good and your glory.  Amen.’

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