One Piece at a Time

lutz-bioBy Dr. Mary Lutz

Recently, I helped a friend from church complete a challenging jigsaw puzzle.  In doing so, I was reminded of a phone call I received a few years ago from an area pastor.  He had been working on a puzzle and had effectively reached an impasse.  With roughly 70 pieces to go, he was having difficulty completing the bigger picture.

I stopped by to see Jerry at the appointed time, only to find he had just completed the puzzle after months of hard work.  Jerry, a semi-retired Pastor, explained that it was the most difficult puzzle he had ever encountered.

Intrigued, and knowing that he had worked many puzzles, I asked why that was the case.  Showing me the round puzzle, Jerry said that it had been virtually impossible to complete – at least until he figured out what the problem had been.  Jerry went on to explain that, he would usually start with the border when working on a puzzle. But, it wasn’t until a couple of days before my arrival that he realized that it was impossible to complete this circular puzzle the same way.

You see, the border pieces to this circular puzzle were so similar that it was difficult to tell what piece went where.  And, naturally if the border pieces weren’t in the right place, the other pieces inside the circle wouldn’t fit either.  Jerry finally realized that the only way to complete this puzzle was from the inside-out.  So, in a relatively brief period of time, once his perspective on the problem changed, Jerry was able to finish the puzzle hours prior to my arrival.

On my way home later that evening, I pondered the mystery of the puzzle, thinking that it was a lot like our individual journeys with God.  There are, indeed many things in life that are fairly straightforward, where you can fill in the blanks after completing the border.  But, just like the round puzzle, there are many other things, mysteries if you will, that can only be worked on piece by piece, and from the inside-out.

As we walk with God, we all have control over the changes that we allow God to make inside – in our hearts.   And, though it can be helpful to consult with others in the Body of Christ, no one else can put those pieces of the puzzle in place for us.  But, the beauty of this puzzle is that we have God’s promise that He will complete the work that He has begun.  My prayer is that God will continue to re-orient our perspective on puzzling problems, and challenge us all to work from the inside-out, as we seek to discover more and more of the bigger picture of who God has created each of us to be, one piece at a time.

Dr. Mary Lutz is Education Coordinator at Ashland Theological Seminary ‘s Columbus Center.

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