I love puzzles. Crosswords, brainteasers, and search-a-words; but nothing beats an old fashioned jigsaw puzzle with about gazillion pieces spilling out of the box. Right now there is a monster-sized puzzle strewn across our family’s dining room table. I have been persistently working on it for so long that I can’t remember the last evening we ate dinner at the table.
My family has learned not to monkey around with me while I am hip-deep in puzzle solving. Yes, assist me—I’ll take all that I can get—but don’t walk by and offer advice or a litany of critiques unless you are willing to give the pieces a try yourself. Time, patience, and the right kind of help: these are the requirements for solving puzzles, even puzzles of faith; because sometimes the puzzle doesn’t match the box we were given. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit together at all.
I’ve met a legion of people who begin their walk of faith and everything goes as it “should.” They go to church, learn stuff from the Bible, volunteer, serve, give, and become “productive, committed, faithful, Christians,” whatever that is supposed to mean. But then these good soldiers go through a divorce; or they are mistreated by a religious organization, or lose their career. Maybe their child gets sick or their spouse dies.
The result is much more than the proverbial crisis of faith; I have one of those every Monday morning. No, it is much deeper, more life-altering and foundation-shaking than that. The answers they used to rely upon, the faith that formerly sustained them, no longer works. The fitly-paired pieces of the puzzle go scattering in the wind.
What is the answer to these miss-fitted and missing pieces puzzles of life and faith? Time, patience, and a little help. Time and patience to keep working it out and to sift through the prefabricated pictures of what life once promised. Time and patience to ask dangerous questions and to listen for unexpected responses. Time and patience to curse, pray, cry, heal, and hopefully come through on the other side, even if a few pieces to the puzzle are never found.
So, if a friend is stuck trying to solve their puzzle, offer the right kind of help. Quietly sit down with them and dig in. Patiently sort through the pieces, and help put it together, whatever “it” turns out to be.