I recently embarked on a journey with Proskuneo Ministries to Southeast Asia. We first ventured to Yangon, Myanmar to work with eager hands, doing mural painting and worship with children at a local orphanage. We then joined the remaining members of our team and made our way to a bible school in a refugee camp in Thailand. There, we connected, created, worshiped, and taught about worship-leading to third year students preparing for a future of ministry. The trip was full. Each piece—the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feels—took on an array of impact for each of us.
When I returned from my trip to re-enter my Midwestern domain in Wisconsin, I was greeted with cold that some places claimed to be plummeting to -50 degrees Fahrenheit! What does one do when, after a beautiful and impactful trip, one must re-enter into a state-wide hibernation?
I found myself reaching for a jigsaw puzzle, still wrapped in its original plastic. I opened up the box and dumped the contents out on my dining room table. While re-entering into the “norms” of work and life that I had set aside for the past month, I also spent hours bent over those 1000 scattered pieces on that table, working to make some semblance of progress toward the complete picture on the box.
So many moments, I found company with nagging thoughts that I was wasting perfectly good time. Time that I could have used to sit and process the trip, or to re-acclimate in a more useful manner. Even in the internal scolding, I was determined to finish the puzzle. As I neared the last few pieces, I began to honestly ask, “God, what is this all about?”
I realized I had spent lots of time on something that was unfolding beautifully, but based on my expectations of what “processing” ought to look like, it had been difficult not to judge that time as wasteful. I began to see Him drawing out parallels in the rows and wanderings of jagged pieces that were forming a picture before me. Here are some things that God, in His kindness, showed me through a puzzle, as I processed some of the deeper values that I will treasure from this trip.
Each piece is important. We all have a vital part to play. One of the activities done with the students at KKBBSC incorporated this idea of puzzle-making. It spoke from the story in Matthew 25 about the workers and their talents. Each of us have a talent. It could be one, or it could be many, but we all have a part to play. The whole body, just like a puzzle, cannot be completed without each piece. We are genuinely missing out when one of the pieces is not present.
This is not just a value, but a cultural shift in the mind and heart. It is a shift of the heart and the mind regarding identity of who we are because of Whose we are. It is a culture that says “I see you, all of you.” There’s a place for your story and a space to share it, even if your voice shakes. There’s a space when your heart is breaking and the words won’t come. It is a vision that I see in the heart of Proskuneo. I saw students stepping into areas of strength, because they were in a culture nurturing that they have value, and that value is worth encouraging.
You have the pieces you need. While making my puzzle, there were frustrating moments when it felt like none of the pieces were the right ones. I wished that I had some secret resource, so I could just fabricate the right piece and not have to trifle through the mess of pieces I had already gone through too many times. How often do I feel challenged to give up or play the victim when I feel like my options have run out, or my path has become too difficult, or life isn’t looking the way I imagined it would? I see this in my own life, and God is reframing my view of “lack” to being creatively resourceful instead. I also have seen it in the students, in the stories that they have shared, and the choices and challenges they are faced with. How can creativity redeem and open new doors?
There are clues in the pieces. As you make a puzzle, you begin to see the little discrepancies, the patterns, the differences, ever so small, that might help you to determine where its space is. As I broaden my vocabulary of cultures and how people see the world differently from me, I learn to have eyes to see those around me more clearly, or to ask the right questions to invite clarity. Am I noticing the little hatch in the corner of that piece? The glimmer of interest in their eye? The gift in somebody that has been hidden by wounds, or cornered by doubt, or stagnated by circumstances? And how do I live in the freedoms I dare to dream and pray for others to walk in?
Sometimes it’s about timing. As my puzzle formed, sometimes a piece didn’t have a space… yet. It needed the other pieces to be fit around it before it was its turn to be put in the puzzle. Sometimes in our life, it seems that it is necessary for some of the other pieces to be revealed before our own pieces find their place. I think at times this could mean that we need others to fill the gaps around us. Other times, I think this reflects that we have things yet to learn, and patience to practice, before we see the fruits we long for.
I think this also speaks to our stories and our vulnerability. Sometimes, even in moments of feeling like one of our pieces don’t quite fit—maybe our dreams, gifts, or longings—there is value in being able to share that “this is where I am, this is where I want to be.” There is beauty in being where we are and stepping into the vulnerability necessary to claim where we are, not only so others can speak into our lives, but also so we can offer it to God and allow Him to do something with it.
God is eager to connect. I came home with a desire for intimacy and process, but wasn’t quite sure how to enter into it. He met my desires creatively and relevant to where I found myself: making a puzzle. Instead of judging my time of rest with expectations of what is practical, or what process or purpose “ought” to look like, I am going to pause and ask “What’s this about, God?”, trusting that He is love and deeply loves me. And notice where He is pouring out His love and affections in creative ways that I haven’t seen before!