One of the best distractions for me during the COVID-19 lockdown was the ubiquitous jigsaw puzzle. The more I work these puzzles, the more I think about the truths they teach. I choose puzzles based on my attraction to the picture on the front of the box, and to the “markers” in the artwork that would make it possible to put it together in a sensible way. I do not like puzzles that are geometric designs or monochromatic colors. Rather, I am drawn to those with identifiable objects that can help me plot my course of action. Whatever the challenge, there is a certain method and procedure I follow every time. I call my plan, “scope and sequence”.
Before you start a puzzle, you must know its dimensions. These are usually found on the box itself, but it is an absolute must to start with the end in mind. As for sequence, most puzzlers build the edges first. I search through my boxed puzzle looking for straight-edged pieces. I also sort, more or less, for color.
Once I have the boundaries in place I begin to look for the positive spaces in the picture. These are the distinctive, recognizable elements of the artwork such as buildings, windows, doors, steeples, signs, vehicles, boats, people, words, horizons—things that stand out within the composition I am trying to recreate. I build little vignettes here and there until I can connect a bridge horizontally, vertically, or in both directions.
When I have completed the recognizable features of my puzzle, I can fill in the negative spaces by matching up colors and finding the right shaped pieces. There is something very life affirming about seeing the picture emerge and coalesce and become a reproduction of the box top. There is nothing more satisfying than finding the proper home for a rogue piece you have been trying to place. And putting that last piece to rest is a nice punctuation mark to the completed effort.
Just like a puzzle, our lives have scope and dimension. Even though we may not know the exact measurements of our lifespan, we ready ourselves for an assumed future. Many of our framing pieces are set in childhood, puberty, and young adulthood. We are taught a worldview and we begin to have a philosophy of life. Truth claims are observed, critiqued, and incorporated or discarded. Hopefully we develop a biblical worldview that keeps us out of the ditches and in between the rails.
We also have sequence in our lives: education before marriage, marriage before children, work before play, responsibility before convenience, commitment that does not fail. Most of us concentrate on the positive space in our lived story like births, deaths, celebrations, vacations, promotions—the highs and lows of life. We then backdrop these with the negative space of place, aptitude, personality, history, interests, dreams. In time, the places and spaces create the whole picture that we call life.
The one thing the puzzler would be lost without as he tries to put it all together is the blueprint, the guide, the illustration—in short, the box top with the picture in full color. This picture, poster, print is the Bible for the puzzler. Without it, he would not know where to begin or what to look for or how to proceed. He spends a great deal of his time with a piece of puzzle in one hand and the box lid in the other. He is concentrating on matching up the detail and color to the pattern in front of him.
The Bible is truly the same kind of footprint for the Christian and oh, that we would observe it as carefully and rely on it as diligently! Then we would perhaps have more “aha” moments as we puzzle out life, and a truly satisfying completion to the work of art that God has said we are.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).