At the last Game Night, Ava got me to work on a giant jigsaw puzzle with her. You know the kind that is made for kids her size. Being that young, her attention span brought her off to bigger and better things, and before I knew it, I was completing the puzzle on my own.
I began to think of the Church and the puzzle as if it were an analogy for our life together. Now I do not claim this to be a perfect example, but bear with me.
I know in my life, I never bought or sought to buy a jigsaw puzzle. They were one of those things that as a kid, it would just show up. Usually, with a somewhat interesting picture and sometimes with something pretty lame. However, they would always pose a challenge. I had a big butcher block cutting board that would fit most puzzles, and I would set down empty the box and begin methodically studying the pieces and attempting connections.
Thankfully, when we get a jigsaw puzzle, we have an image on the front of the box, so we have an idea of what it is supposed to be, but often it is hard to realize because inside is just a bunch of broken pieces. The picture on the outside gives us an idea of what it will look like, but it is never quite what the finished product is since the finished product is always much bigger.
Through trial and error and the occasional brother hiding a piece or even worse adding a piece from another puzzle, we figure it out and finish. When it is done we inevitably have the sense of accomplishment, which lasts as long as it takes us to move onto the next puzzle.
With a hard puzzle, we will go through the process with moments filled with despair being unable to find the piece or just feeling overwhelmed by the whole thing and times of great joy, finally finding it. At times what keeps us going is sheer determination, a desire to finish and others just the fun of the challenge, but underlying it all is the knowledge of what it will be when it is done.
When we think of the church or even our lives, the hardest thing for many people is seeing the bigger picture. Often what keeps us going in the puzzle is knowing how it is going to end. Unfortunately, we often forget that the image that explains all that we go through is clear and is found within the Bible. Not as a rulebook, but as a rendering of what life will be when we trust and follow God.
This witness to our salvation that comes from our forefathers and mothers is like the cover of the box, and while we still have to go through the process, we know that when we get to the end, it will be, as promised, and that is our hope. A hope based in the knowledge that God loves us will extend salvation to all who he has called.
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen