Our quest for challenge and entertainment has sunk to a new low… we are attempting a jigsaw with no picture.
We found three bags of pieces, all labelled ‘David’s jigsaw’ and are having a go at putting it together. But neither of us know what picture we are creating. We don’t know its dimensions, we don’t know if there ever was a missing 4th bag of pieces….?
We know nothing except the small fragmented pieces we have before us.
We stare at each one intently, scouring it for clues as to its purpose and position in the greater picture.
If this isn’t a metaphor for life … I don’t know what is! Our days are the fragments of our experience, each one eventually taking its place in the whole story of our life but each of us is creating a whole without a picture to follow.
In one way this good, it leaves open exciting possibilities – who knows what might emerge, life would be awfully dull if we knew exactly what was going to unfold and when. In another way this is profoundly scary: we might find we are working with a ‘decade of days’ less than everyone else, we might find a whole pile of unexpected black pieces hard to piece together and, anyway, who wants a ‘black hole’ in the puzzle that is their life?
I can hear my mother’s voice in my head as I type these thoughts ‘My life is but a weaving between my Lord and I…’ one of her favourite and oft quoted poems, with the line ‘the dark threads are as needful in the pattern he has planned’ and ending with the idea that only God sees the picture, we only get to see the messy reverse side of the embroidery.
I’m not so sure these days that I hold such a pre-determined theological position ( eg ‘everything happens for a reason’) I’m much more of the view that ‘stuff happens’ and we get to choose to make the best of it or not.
I am however confident that God is still a presence at my side, who knows the puzzle that my life is to me. He knows how very much I’d like the pieces to make sense, how very much I’d like to know what bit I’m working on next and what is meant to be emerging.
The truth is God does not leave me (or you or anyone) without a picture as a guide for our lives. It’s a great picture but hazy on details. So what IS this pictuer? What are our lives meant to look like? They are meant to look like loving God and loving our neighbour.
‘But what dimension will my life be?’ we cry and ‘Where will I live? What will I do? And will I ‘succeed’? (whatever ‘success’ means?) These are all the close up details that deeply preoccupy us day by day as we hold up the puzzle piece of this day or this set of circumstances and we try so hard to make a picture emerge.
Do any of those dimensions matter? I think that if we attend to the instruction to love God and neighbour, then everything else is detail: detail that can be worked out as we go along. We might be ‘here’, we might be ‘there’, we might ‘*do this’ or ‘*do that’ (*substitute your own confusing options!).
If we are going to be content with whatever emerges (unexpected changes, black holes, missing pieces) then there is only one dimension worth contemplating (and I use that word contemplating very deliberately: contemplating, sitting with, being with, not questioning, not wrestling with, not measuring… ) and that is the dimension of the love of God.
St Paul prays in Ephesians that we might grasp ‘how wide, long, high and deep is the love of Christ’ and then he adds (non-sensically) ‘that we might know this love that surpasses knowledge’. How can we know something unknowable? The answer is that you cannot know its entirety but you can know deeply and inwardly however much you choose to open your heart to receive…. In the same way that you cannot ‘know’ the Pacific Ocean but could still float in one tiny part of it.
PS This blog post now has a hilarious postscript, (before I even got to publish it). David has now found the image of our jigsaw puzzle and printed off a copy.
(As he showed it to me, I laughed and said ‘You’ve just ruined my theological reflection‘. He shrugged, ‘Trust an engineer to provide certainty in an uncertain world’! )
It seems you can find anything on the internet, … but how did he know what he was looking for? He had realised it was a painting and found the artist’s signature on a tiny puzzle piece, then he researched images by that particular artist and came up with this:
There is a ‘whole other theological reflection’ in the notion that our lives only begin to make sense when we discover/trace or recognise the Creator’s signature in some aspect of our being… let him try to get his thieving engineering hands on that one!
Here’s a link if you want to read the poem mum loved https://thepoetryplace.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/life-is-but-a-weaving-the-tapestry-poem-by-corrie-ten-boom/