by Ty Carlson
Have you ever gone to put a puzzle together only to find that the box you grabbed is actually several puzzles combined? And then, upon a sizable investment of time, realized that none of the puzzles are actually complete? Out of all of those pieces, there were still missing pieces along with pieces that didn’t belong anywhere?
I used to work for Ozark Guidance in the 5th grade class. The kids I worked with loved puzzles. They did not, however, love the process of finding each piece a home. Unfortunately, that’s the whole point of a puzzle, isn’t it? Find it’s home, find where it fits?
I’m sure, by now, you can see some life-sized parallels.
When my family put the puzzle together, every piece had its place. The puzzle was created, actually, with every piece in mind and with a home. Without any piece, whether the corner, the middle, or some random edge, the puzzle – the picture – was incomplete.
I know I’ve encountered this feeling before, and I also know I’m not alone. Our world is full of people who feel that they are incomplete. Now, I’m not talking necessarily about the “incompleteness” that’s thrown from the pulpit on any given Sunday in any given church in the world. I mean that each person has, at some point in their life, felt like they don’t belong. Maybe, in fact, that they’re a puzzle piece in the wrong puzzle box.
God has in a very real way, designed each of us to fit into a certain role. Not that we’re pigeonholed, by any means, because God has created us differently. I can, however, tell you that I was meant to be something bigger than just an employee. And, something bigger than just a dad or just a husband. I was made – and you, too – to be something larger than just the biggest role I play in our life.
Plenty of verses come to mind, but the biggest ones that I continue to repeat in my own head are in 1 Corinthians 12. In this chapter of the bible, Paul relates each person’s role in the church to parts of the body. The foot, for instance, is made to walk. If it suddenly said it was useless because it couldn’t do what a hand did, it wouldn’t disqualify it as a body part. In the same way, each of us are made to fit into some role that He has designed for us. Just because I’m not a successful preacher doesn’t mean that I’m a worthless part of the Church. What it does mean, though, is that my job is different.
Our culture is currently obsessed with comparisons. You can look on any major news article, any TV show, any magazine cover and see the obsession front and center. This president is doing this thing worse than that one. This person is making less than that one. This woman wore this dress better. Our culture has found its value in making sure that other people understand that value can only be found in people who are better. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t some place for competition or even a spurring-on toward self-improvement. There are certainly places where that’s appropriate. What I would caution you with is that your success is not dependent, is not even able to be correlated, with another person’s success.
Our roles, our spiritual fit, has to come from who we are in Christ, which can only be found by pursuing His will. Too many times I’ve found myself wishing I were different in some way, to be more like someone that I admire. The trick that I’m playing on myself is that God’s story is not my story, it should be reversed. My story is God’s story. Our value can only be found and, I believe, fulfilled, when we discover what role God wants us to play and pursuing it relentlessly.
Of course my actual job, the one that feeds my family, plays a part in that. But if I leave my job wishing I could be more instead of working to be more, then I’ve fallen prey to the culture’s whim. I’m looking for value in something that will never fulfill. Our jobs, most of the time, are things that we would rather not have to do, but we do them to reach a certain comfort threshold for ourselves and our family.
If understanding can’t be found in 1 Corinthians, then perhaps it can be found in Psalm 139 where it says in verse 13, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” I don’t know about you, but the person doing the knitting seems to have a very intimate knowledge of what they’re doing. Not only is the outside, the visible part, made, but the inmost part. The part that no one sees (well, regularly), the part that is hidden away from the world, what I would argue speaks to our truest self. Or, a better way to put it, our God-Nature.
You see, our sin nature is to hide the parts of us that are unlovely. I get frustrated with my children, I find myself being lazy about things that need to get done. Those things I try to hide from the world. What our creator has done is not only seen them, but he made those things we try to hide. The issue becomes then finding why that symptom exists, and how it fits into the greater picture, how our little piece of the puzzle connects to everyone else’s around us.
We were made to connect, we were made to be part of a community, part of a body, perhaps? When God made Adam he had said everything prior to was very good. But you know what was not good? The fact that Adam was alone. Our puzzle piece, our job, however we are supposed to fit together into this crazy life must fit together into other crazy lives. And when we pursue God and His will for our lives, it will draw us inexorably toward other people.
After all, a foot detached from a body serves no purpose.