Last night I volunteered to help with a kids’ toy and clothing exchange at my church. This meant I left home before my children ate dinner, and returned after they went to bed. My four-year-old daughter was having a hard time seeing me leave, so I told her I’d bring home a surprise for her to wake up to in the morning. I picked up this princess puzzle, and when I got home late I decided I’d try to put it together just to make sure all the pieces were there before I gave it to her. I decide to use this picture on the box (of Ariel and Belle) as a guide.
I dumped all the pieces out, and a couple of random items fell out of the box, too. One of them was a flash card with the word “quetzal” on it. I was quickly losing faith that all the pieces were actually in the box (it was after all, an item that had been donated), but I pressed on. After I’d pieced together about 10 of the 46 pieces I started to notice that other princesses were popping into the mix. There was a piece with Cinderella’s face on it. There was another with Tiana’s. These princesses weren’t anywhere on the box’s picture, so by this time I was growing even more doubtful. I assumed that several puzzles got mixed together and then donated, which would be 100% understandable in the busyness of life. I almost gave up, but for some reason (stubbornness, maybe?) I kept going. And then things took a turn. To my great surprise, the puzzle began to come together, extra princesses and all. Eventually I put the last piece in place, and the result was a perfect, complete puzzle. Here’s what the finished product looked like:
I should stop here and address the fact that it’s kind of embarrassing I couldn’t just glance at the child’s puzzle and see how it would come together, but that’s not the point. The point is this: I was using the picture on the box to set my expectation of what the puzzle should look like, but the picture on the box was incomplete!
I put my faith in that picture, but I only had half of the picture.
How often do we relate to God in this way? We see only a small part of the picture, and what we can see is clouded by our limited and sometimes selfish ideas of how the puzzle should turn out. We have so many expectations, and they often lead to discouragement and disappointment. In extreme cases, our unmet expectations leave us angry with God, causing us to turn away.
But what if we were to do life differently? What if we were to throw away the “picture on the box” and embrace every day as a piece of a beautiful and perfect puzzle being put together by a brilliant, powerful, and loving hand? What would it look like to do that when the puzzle doesn’t make sense? Or when it’s painful? If the pieces aren’t falling like we want them to, what do we have to lose by persevering and trusting that the one who designed the puzzle will be faithful to complete it?
Perhaps this is obvious, but I should mention that the finished princess puzzle was much better than what my limited perspective had in mind. May we all loosen our grip on our expectations today as we turn our eyes to the one who is able to do infinitely more than we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Corinthians 13:12 MSG)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9 ESV)
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)