It’s cold… it’s rainy… its Saturday. The kids are out with dad, and will be all day. The smell of freshly brewed coffee swirls about her nose as it fills her favorite mug, steam rising in the air at the same pace as the elation in her heart over the idea of a day to herself. Peace, quiet, freedom.
She wants to do something, but nothing too intense. The TV would shatter the serenity that rarely described the atmosphere around the house, and the exhaustion of a long hard week being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, student, house cleaner, schedule maker, Tudor, retailer, etc, etc, etc… means she would be snoring on the couch like a wild boar after a holiday feast in just a page or two.
She is tired, but energized
She goes to the closet, to see if anything sparks her imagination. She shuffles around the old board games, stacked high, and covered in dust looking for something she can do by herself, until she sees something.
A puzzle… 10,000 pieces…
“That’s a lot of pieces,” she thinks to herself…
“Not sure I have enough time to get it finished.” She pauses for a moment, and then quickly grabs the puzzle from the closet and heads back downstairs…
“I will just get it started and see how far I can get.”
Once downstairs she glances briefly at the front of the box, hoping to see what the puzzle looks like when finished, but due to its age, the picture has been rubbed off so that nothing is recognizable. She doesn’t think too much of it before opening the box, and pouring all 10,000 pieces out onto the table, saying to herself…
“A little mystery never hurt anyone.”
One by one, she turns each piece over so that all 10,000 pieces are right side up, waiting to be put together to reveal Whatever was on the front of that box at one point when it sat in its packaging at the store.
In almost no time at all she has all the edge pieces separated and put together. Although this job was not very difficult, and reveals very little about the finish product, it gives her a sense of accomplishment, and after pouring another cup of coffee, she presses on.
As she fishes for pieces that look similar in color, separating them on different sides of the table, all the while searching for pieces that fit together, her sense of excitement begins to fade, giving way to the realization of just how long this puzzle is going to take to put together.
“I have all day,” she thought, “I have already started putting pieces together so I might as well keep going.”
As the seconds, turn into minutes, and minutes turn into hours, her sense of excitement, begins to turn to anxiety.
“I have worked on this for so long already.
If I just quit now, no one would know I gave up.
I don’t want to be the kind of person that gives up.
I won’t give up… I just need a break.”
So she hops up, leaves the table and heads to the kitchen for a mid morning snack.
“I just need a little energy and a rest for my eyes, and I will be back in the groove.”
As she walks back to the table, she notices a cluster of pieces that all seem to have a mix of tan and green colors on them… She begins to group them together and what do you know, they all go together. Even more exciting than that, she sees something she recognizes.
“Its a hammock!!! There must be a hammock in this picture.” Immediately she begins speculating about the finished product,
“It must be an island scene, with crystal clear waters, palm trees and endless white sandy beaches.”
Pieces are going together, it’s fun… who knows, she might even get this thing finished at this pace.
But once again, as the minutes go by, the struggle returns… The pieces aren’t fitting as easily and she even wonders if she had forced some of the pieces together that she has already placed. To make matters worse, with every piece she finds, she becomes more and more convinced that what she thought was a hammock might actually be something else entirely.
She is frustrated.
“Did I waste my time?
will I ever finish this puzzle?
Is it too late to just put it away?
After this much time, shouldn’t I have some idea of what is happening in this puzzle?
I wonder if there is a piece missing?”
“Coffee, I just need more coffee,” She thinks to herself.”
As the hours role on, she is making progress here and there, but experiencing all kinds of emotions. She gets frustrated and then quickly reminds herself it just doesn’t matter that much. She tries to convince herself that she doesn’t really care about the finished product to try and relieve her frustration. She gets up, walks away, folds some clothes, comes back in, stares at the puzzle for a few moments, shakes her head, and walks away again. She can’t ring herself to give up on the puzzle, but also doesn’t want to look at it right now. The more she tries to distract herself, the more that unfinished card board nightmare begins to haunt her.
“Why did I even start that stupid thing to begin with,” she says to herself.
When she finally returns to the table, she takes a long hard look before sitting down and she notices that on the other side of the puzzle she has put a cluster of pieces together that she is certain she knows the identity of…
“Its definitely a setting sun.”
But on the others side it appears that she is putting together what looks like a glass of water sitting on a table indoors.
“How could those two things be in the same picture?
Did I do something wrong?
Is it possible that the puzzle maker wanted me to be confused at this point?
Why would he do that? Its mean, unfair, even cruel.”
“I have spent my entire day, the only day I have to myself putting together a puzzle that doesn’t even make any sense? What a waste of time!”
With that thought, she slams her fists down on the table, and the pieces go flying, scattering across the table, some even falling to the floor. She storms off, convinced she will never come back to it again…
“This is stupid.
Puzzles are stupid.
Puzzle makers are stupid and want to make me suffer.
I paid good money for this… the puzzle maker owes me a better experience than this…
Slowly but surely her anger turns to self doubt…
“maybe its me
maybe I am the problem
Am I too dumb to understand?
Did I do something wrong in the early stages that have made it impossible to understand?
If I can’t put a simple puzzle together, what is my worth anyway.”
She cries as she considers how much time and energy she has put into this puzzle. The day she has wasted. She stares at it through tear filled eyes, wondering if she will ever know what it is. She knows she has gone too far to stop and that feeling alone makes her feel like a slave. Guilt, obligation, frustration and doubt consume her thoughts as she sits, and stares.
“All I wanted was a day of freedom… I didn’t ask for this.” She mumbles to herself
After a few moments she thinks to herself…
“What am I doing… its just a puzzle, why am I letting this consume me. I don’’t care if I finish this puzzle, and neither does anyone else… I’m done… Im out of here. I don’t care at all… and she storms out of the house to do some shopping.
After two stores, a new pair of shoes and a hat, that will mostly likely turn out to be a mistake, as most hats are, she is feeling empowered. When she gets home, she walks into the kitchen, takes one look at it and thinks,
“Screw you puzzle, I have these new shoes to make me happy.”
it works… for a little while.
It doesn’t take long for memories of the puzzle to begin to haunt her. She knows she has this deep need to know whats in that puzzle. She knows she needs it to feel whole. Again, she pushes away her feelings, pours herself a glass of wine, and sits down to read a book.
She gets through one page, and realizes she doesn’t remember a single thing she read because her mind is consumed with the unfinished business that lies on the table only 10 feet away from her.
she screams, and she goes back to the table and just starts forcing pieces together, but she knows it isn’t getting her any closer to the freedom she longs for. She pours another glass of wine, then another. She feels better, but deep down knows that she will not be satisfied until she knows whats in the puzzle. She feels helpless… she feels beaten, she feels broken. She knows there is only one thing that can change the way she is feeling…
She has to build the puzzle, one piece at a time. She has to choose to set aside her desire to see it done, and embrace the process of doing it. She has to enjoy the mystery, accept the confusion, and acknowledge that reality that freedom in her struggle, and moving toward clarity means she has to trust that some day, some way, it will make sense. She will see it. But the only way, is if she is willing to keep putting pieces together, even when she doesn’t understand. Even when it isn’t working….
She says to herself…
“Just one more piece.”
The second she says that. she feels a rush of freedom from her struggle, and a peace she has longed for since she put the last piece of the edge together.
“I don’t need to know what it is to enjoy putting pieces together,” she thought.
The truth is, when she first started, she wasn’t worried about the end. She was just in it to enjoy the ride. She was excited about the mystery and driven by the process.
“Just one more piece. All I have to do, is put together, one more piece. One. more. Piece. I can do that!” She thought.
Now, she could finally move forward…
It would take days, weeks, even months for her to get to the point where she could recognize anything… Every time she did, she celebrated, but she knew that more struggle was around the corner…
She recognized that on her own, she would probably struggle to finish, so periodically she would invite friends and family over to help. To point out things she didn’t naturally see, and help her put pieces together that she didn’t know she had. It was good, it was a process, it was her process. Some days were great, others were hard. At times she felt great about her progress, other days she wondered if she would ever know what the puzzle would end up looking like. But she kept on looking, she kept on putting pieces together. Just one more piece.
Then one day… as she was sweeping the floor around the table, out of the corner of her eyes, she saw a puzzle piece hiding behind the buffet that sat at the other end of the dining room. Slowly she walked over, and picked it up. She stared at it for a moment, and she began to cry… she knew what this piece was, she had agonized over it for weeks. It was a piece she has needed for a long time. She had searched and searched for this piece, and little did she know, the piece she was looking for was hiding…
With tear filled eyes, she walked over to the puzzle. She reached down, and placed the piece into an empty spot, right in the middle.
The moment it set in its place, she feels a rush of adrenaline. This one piece clarified everything. She immediately burst into tears. Tears of joy, of anger, of confusion and relief. It had been almost a year since she started that puzzle, and finally she knew what it was.
It wasn’t finished, no, far from it… but she knew what it was, and that gave her everything she knew she needed to keep putting the rest of it together. She knew she would continue to struggle at times, but she also knew that never again would she question the puzzle makers motives. Never again would she question whether or not it was worth it. Never again would she wonder if she was good enough smart enough or strong enough.
All because of one simple phrase…
“Just one more piece.”
Your faith journey is much like the story above. You don’t have to have it all together, you just have to be willing to keep putting it together. One piece at a time.