By Deb DeArmond
Oh, this will be fun!
“Complete the jigsaw puzzle found in your backpack. You have one hour for this task.”
It was the next assignment in a long list of to-do’s. The retreat organizers clearly understood that we needed a break at this point from the intense journaling, prayer assignments, and scripture reading. A full day, alone in the great outdoors originally sounded onerous, but I had enjoyed it – most of it. And now, a puzzle. Fabulous.
I was surprised when I pulled the plain box from the backpack assigned to me. No picture. No clues to what we were creating. Okay. A mystery puzzle. Tough, but intriguing.
I sorted the straight-edged and corner pieces and completed most of the frame. 17 minutes already gone. That surprised me. Gotta move. I began to sort by color, but found few pieces that fit together. Did I mention the pieces were small? Tiny, almost.
I did manage a few multi-piece blobs, but couldn’t fit them into anything already assembled. 32 minutes. Ugh. This is impossible. Nobody could make sense of this. But I kept at it. It looked like a flamingo and a barn might be part of the landscape, but that made no sense. Maybe it’s not a bird, but a Vegas showgirl’s headdress. Not that that’s more feasible.
At the 48-minute mark, I switched my thinking about the clock: Oh, good. Only 12 more minutes of torture till I’m done. I eyed the river and thought about tossing the whole thing in the water. But how would I explain that?
When the alarm on my watch rang, I gratefully slid the pieces into the box, and turned to the journal page I was directed to once the puzzle was complete where I found the following instructions: “Take a moment to ask God the following question and record the response in the space provided:
“What is God teaching me through this activity?”
I had many immediate thoughts (meaning before prayer):
- Who in their right mind could miss this box with no picture??
- That’s a lesson in frustration.
- Thank God that’s over!
- It’s just a lesson about patience or something!
Oh. That last one tagged me. I’ve often joked that when gifts were handed out in heaven I thought they said patients, and decided to pass. Let’s say it’s not my gift. I’m working on it.
And then God’s Spirit prompted me to do as requested. I prayed and asked the question: God what are you teaching me through this activity?
His answer knocked me for a loop: “Trust. I’m teaching you about trust.”
I was stunned. I do trust you, Father! I’ve trusted you for my salvation, my family, my finances – everything.
Then clearly, I heard, “I can’t trust you.”
I felt like I’d been punched. Hard.
And then He gently showed me all the times I had what I believed were all the pieces of a picture God wanted me to complete in my life. Ministry. Career. Kids. Marriage. Finances. And because I felt equipped, I ran ahead of Him, rather than seeking Him for each step along the way. It was almost as if I was saying, “I got this God. Go help someone who needs your direction.”
Tears came quickly. He couldn’t trust me with the full picture because I’d take off without him, running at my own pace, on the course of my choice. Self-reliance at its worst. Confident, but often, wrong.
He brought this experience to me this morning, as I reviewed my goals for 2018 in my beautiful new planner. I love the process of a new year stretching before me on paper and dreaming of the possibilities. I’m a bit of a planner wonk.
I was putting the finishing touches on the goals when God reminded me of this experience. How much time had I spent in prayer before I recorded these plans? Not enough. Thank goodness for erasable ink.
There is an old Yiddish saying, “Man plans and God laughs.” Kind of harsh, right? I think of Him in the heavenlies clucking His tongue and shaking His head at our self-determined, but poorly informed path. But it’s Biblical: it’s based in part on Proverbs 16:9 that says, “People may make plans in their minds, but the Lord decides what they will do,”(CSB).
As I said. I’m (still) working on it. What about you? You may know where He wants you to go, what He wants you to focus on – but do you know His plan for getting you there safe and successful? My prayer for 2018 is simple:
I will trust you, Father. Hand the pieces to me one at a time until I develop the ability to rely solely on You. I will seek your face for each and every step, and pray it becomes my supernatural instinct – to occur even when I’m not aware of it. Let it become my new normal in 2018.
Sound familiar? I’d welcome your company on the journey – and your comments along the way!