There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 27)
Recently, I’ve begun thinking about my life as a puzzle.
The puzzle is still incomplete. The pieces are still there, just not all quite assembled yet. God knows what the final picture will be, but I don’t. I have to just go along, piece by piece, connecting things that make sense in the places they logically connect…and rejecting connections that don’t make any sense.
Part of this way of thinking has come from a study my small group did recently: Chazown, by Craig Groeschel. The objective of that study was to find the chazown – or vision, purpose statement, and mission – of your life. We looked at our past experiences and our gifts and our talents and our passions all together; that examination resulted in a purpose statement for our lives and goals related to that statement. I guess, in a way, that purpose statement is the puzzle of my life. Here is the statement God assembled for me as I worked through the study:
My God-given purpose is to passionately seek to know God and to share my experience of Who He is with the Body of Christ, helping to encourage other followers of Jesus to grow in their relationship with Him and to have a deeper experience of Him in their own lives. God has equipped me to accomplish this through the spoken and written word.
As I began to look at my life through the lens that purpose statement created, certain things became clear to me.
First, I could see that the path my life has taken has been intentional, even if it didn’t always feel that way. It didn’t feel intentional because for me, it was not. In God’s eyes, though, I have steadily been in preparation for a calling only He knew about. The puzzle pieces of past experience and passions and gifts, once scattered across a table, have now been pieced together in the most beautiful of ways. I can see myself as a whole picture now, and I like what I see.
There is no room for regret when I see how the horrible decisions I have made work together to create something beautiful in God’s hands.
There is no room for self-loathing when I really understand that I am a creation of the Most High God, and that He has been working on me since my birth, and that He is not finished with the project that is my life.
It’s hard to hate myself when I see myself as He does.
Secondly, when I pulled back and looked at my life through that “purpose statement” lens, I could see that while some of the puzzle pieces of my life fit together neatly, forming a picture that is both beautiful and complex, other pieces scattered on the table don’t fit at all.
It was as though a hundred different children’s puzzles were mixed up in a box, then strewn out for me to figure out. Some of the pieces were pretty, so I figured they must have been a part of the puzzle I was working on. I tried to fit it in. I tried to make it go. I tried to make the edges all fit together in a logical way, but somehow, it wasn’t working.
The result, really and honestly, was a picture of my life that was a big mess. Some things felt right. Good. Like what I was supposed to be doing. Those things did not bring me stress or anxiety. They were right.
Other things, though…those mismatched puzzle pieces that I stubbornly tried to make fit into the picture…they were all wrong. By themselves, they were good pieces. They were nice and pretty and good.
They were not, however, meant to be a part of the puzzle picture of my life.
Someone’s life…certainly. But my life? Not so much.
In my church community lately, we’ve talked a lot about the process of pruning. We’ve talked about how in life, like in gardening, some dead or unhealthy things have to be pruned off to let the rest of the branches grow. Sometimes, though, good and healthy branches have to be cut off simply because they are keeping better branches from thriving.
When I pulled back and looked at the scattered puzzle pieces of my life, that is exactly what I saw. There were a couple of branches, so to speak, sucking the life out of the rest of them. There were some puzzle pieces that I was trying to make fit…and in doing so, I was using energy that would have been better suited to other parts of the puzzle.
So I had to make some choices, and I tossed the errant puzzle pieces. They were not mine to use, so I had to let them go. They were nice, yes, but they were sucking the life out of my tree. They were messing up the picture that God intends my life to be. They had to go.
And what I realized once I did that was this: As long as I was trying to fit those puzzle pieces into my puzzle, the puzzle to which they belonged was suffering.
I was hogging pieces of someone else’s puzzle. When I pulled out – tossed those puzzle pieces back onto the table – I saw them taken up by someone who had been looking for that. I quit a job that was not fitting into the puzzle of my life, and I saw someone who needed it take my place. I saw her puzzle become more complete.
What’s more, I now have time (and energy!) to put into the things God has uniquely created me for…things that no one else can do because it’s not a part of their puzzle.
So friends, can I challenge you today? Can I be bold with you?
Step back and really look at your life. Get far enough away so that it begins to look like a big pile of puzzle pieces. Look for the ones that bring you peace. Look for the ones that make you happy. Look for the ones that fit together and make a picture that is more beautiful than the individual pieces were alone. Look for the pieces that make sense together.
And then…the hard part. Look for those puzzle pieces that don’t fit. Find them…single them out…and toss them away.
Can you do that? Try. It is worth it, and it makes everything better.
Journeying with you,