I felt a blog inside today but couldn’t find the words. So I started a jigsaw puzzle.
Not as unrelated as it sounds. Often when words are stuck, doing something tactile or physical helps. Walking, exercising, gardening, cleaning…today it was looking for outside edges amid 1000 tiny pieces.
The puzzle is a photograph of a place I know well. It measures 13” X 30”, meaning there are 2.5 pieces per square inch. TINY. Extremely small jigsaw. Operated by the Keebler elves maybe.
While picking through the puzzle pieces, I was also thinking about some uncertain parts of my life. I would like resolution. I would like answers or explanations. I would like them to be how I would like them to be. Now would be nice.
The frame of the puzzle seemed to be coming together, until I realized some pieces were missing. Not gone, just mixed in with the other 900 pieces.
I know some puzzle builders would continue on and add the missing edge pieces later. But that is wrong. The frame needs to be finished before any other pieces are attached. It just does.
No, I’m not always so rigid. Just with puzzles. And cupboards. And the spice rack.
But I digress…
During the (second) search through over 75 dozen pieces (which sounds like a lot more than 900), I thought about how often I have heard people compare life to a puzzle.
You have probably heard that analogy as well. The whole picture can’t be seen until the end, things fit together as they should, you can only do one piece at a time, everything makes sense when you’re done, etc.
All the straight pieces were segregated and the frame was coming along. I was rather impressed with myself. Did I mention the pieces are tiny?
The pride bubble burst when I had a gap along the bottom and two pieces that fit together, but not in the empty space.
The assembled pieces all seemed to match. I don’t attach pieces until I am certain they go together. But, there was obviously a mistake. So the examination began - looking closely, removing some sections to look at them from the back, double checking the picture I had with the picture on the box.
Did I mention the pieces are small?
Halfway down the right side I found a renegade piece. Part of the mystery was solved.
The other mismatch was, logically, where the gap occurred.
Once the mismatched pieces were exchanged, the two remaining pieces fit perfectly.
Outside edge done!
I thought again about the life/puzzle analogy. I don’t remember anyone mentioning pieces in the wrong place.
You may understand having a day when emotions are off balance. Lots of reasons and no particular reason.
I had one last week. Maybe you did too?
Regrets often pop into my head on days like that. I can go way back. In a hurry. Oh, I surely can.
How about you?
Someone who cares for me let the shoulda/woulda/coulda go on for a short time, then shared a personal choice from 25 years ago that changed life’s course.
The sharing wasn’t done for the purpose of commiserating. It was a firmly planted, loving reminder that I don’t have a corner on the shame market and thinking I do doesn’t help me or the people I love.
In fact, shame that is allowed to fester has an unimaginable compound interest rate and it seeps into every aspect of life.
Shame can take one bad choice and turn it into a lifetime of inability to see your strengths, to identify and overcome weaknesses, and to learn from mistakes and move forward.
Shame. We all have it. Every one of us.
Every one of us has put puzzle pieces in the wrong place. Every one of has pushed two mismatched pieces together.
Sometimes we do it unknowingly.
Sometimes we do it even though the voice inside says, “Don’t do it. It doesn’t fit. Just don’t do it.”
It happens. And it’s okay.
Even if it is impossible to take the pieces apart and put them in the right place, it’s still okay. Unless shame gets a foothold.
Life is like a puzzle. We pick through a lot of pieces, find ones that match, build a corner. Then we move to another corner and build more. Sometimes a portion of the middle comes together easily when we weren’t even sure what we were seeing. Sometimes we leave parts we don’t like, hoping someone else will come along and put them in place. Sometimes a part is so frustrating we have to step away and focus elsewhere.
And through the entire process, we get to choose. Sometimes we like our choices. Sometimes our choices offer opportunity to learn.
And it’s all okay.
You might wonder how I can say that.
You might not believe mistakes are okay.
You might think your shame is deserved because your misplaced pieces were too hurtful to overcome.
Hear these words from the prophet Jeremiah:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you [and approved] of you (1:5)
Do you hear it?
Long before you were a physical human being, you were a spiritual being known by AND approved of by the Creator of the entire universe.
Nothing you do is a surprise to the One who knew you before you had a physical form.
Does that resonate with you?
Can you say that out loud and BELIEVE it?
I can. At long last.
In spite of the mismatched pieces, in spite of how long it takes me to put certain parts together, in spite of how many times I sit and stare at the puzzle without putting a single piece in the right place, I am known and approved of and loved by the Creator.
So are you.
Shame can cover that, but the truth remains.
Good news indeed.
I’m heading back to the puzzle table.
We will talk again soon…
Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.
Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!