Puzzle Pieces


She picked out the puzzle, and I bought it.

Lucy loves to use her mind, to wrestle solutions from problems. She is unencumbered, the way children should be, by fear or insecurity or lack of knowledge. She hasn't yet learned to let any of those things get in her way. Puzzles are a delight for our little girl, our extroverted bundle of energy who was, miraculously, stitched together with a healthy dose of independence that her dad and I are only far too eager to cultivate. She finds equal joy in jumping and climbing as she does sitting with a puzzle, literal or otherwise. So when we went to Barnes & Noble that afternoon in search of an activity to take home, Lucy selected the best one on the shelf.

The aforementioned puzzle is three hundred pieces total, a bright, bursting combination of colors that are so numerous the prospect of piecing them together felt slightly overwhelming when we first spread it out on the table. At least it did for me. But we did it, over the course of four hours, between eating dinner and playing outside and getting ready for bed. And then we did it again the next week. 

On Saturday, Lucy pulled the puzzle down from our hutch and began working on it herself. She didn't ask for my participation or assistance, so I didn't offer it. Instead, I sat in the living room and finished The Forgetting Time while taking periodic breaks to listen in on the conversation she was having with herself. Lucy sang and talked to her baby doll and pretended to be a teacher lecturing her students, and all the while her little fingers stretched over the table, hovering, searching for the next puzzle piece. For two hours, she sat up on her knees and surveyed the landscape of color on top of our dining room table, perfectly content with the work she had completed and what still remained.

Every once in awhile, Lucy would call out, "Mommy! Daddy! Come look at how done I am!" And we'd scurry into the room to clap our hands and declare how proud we were of her progress.

This continued, on and off, for five more days. And last night, just before bed, Lucy finished the puzzle.

There are only simple lessons here, lessons I am always learning. The first is that children are vastly superior to adults in almost every way. Aren't they always? The second is that a little encouragement goes a very, very long way. Our words have potential to be so life-giving, don't they? We can build up people, leaders, and nations with the power of our speech...and destroy them just as quickly. Finally, there is just as much delight to be found in the process of making something—whether that something is a career, a family, a book, a plan, a home, or a business—as there is in the end result. Perhaps even more. 

I daresay, yes, definitely even more.

I watched my daughter pore over a puzzle more than half the size of her body and she saw nothing more than possibility in the progress. The possibility for a little bit of fun, for the pleasure of finding that next piece, for accomplishing something difficult all on her own. Without the pieces, a puzzle is just a picture. There is no possibility. There's only what already is. 

I am in the thick of not enjoying the progress that opens up to more possibility. Oh, progress is happening, I feel sure of it. But it is drudgery. It is pain. It is heavy and frustrating and, more often than not, discouraging. 

I'm writing a book that talks about lessons I've already learned, lessons I want to share. And two weeks ago I realized they are lessons I will have to keep learning every day for the rest of my life. They are not one-time realizations the way Jesus' death on the cross was a one-time salvation for all who believe. They are daily graces that must be chosen out of all the noise surrounding me, graces I have to submit to every single morning, over and over again. They are pieces of a puzzle, bright and colorful, that will remain incomplete until I stand at the feet of Jesus. 

Still, the promise from Philippians remains:

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)

Perhaps the delight I'm seeking should not be my own. Perhaps it is His delight. Like like that of a little girl looking out over a beautiful puzzle, He fits my days together, one by one, gasping with joy as He watches me become the woman He designed at the start. 

The delight is in the progress, and the delight is His. 

The delight is me. 

The delight is you.


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