At my office, there is a puzzle table. Some of my co-workers spend their break time over the period of several weeks, piecing together 5,000 scattered pieces. As you can see from the image above, this one is about halfway there. The previous puzzle didn’t look as complicated for an outsider, but even though I don’t participate in the puzzle making, I love watching the picture come into focus.
Separated, each tiny part of the whole doesn’t make much sense. In this particular puzzle, one piece contains most of the little boy’s ear, another is of the tip of the dog’s nose, there are several pieces of blue from the door frame, and the busyness of the area rug. It’s exciting to find a match for a singular piece, but even two or three pieces joined together, still doesn’t reveal much of that 5,000 part masterpiece. But as I continue to work, connecting piece after piece, the big picture starts to become more clear.
Life is a lot like this puzzle.
I need you, and you need me to make it all make sense. Sometimes, when I feel stuck with a particular situation, or frustrated by my circumstances, the best thing I can do is reach out to a friend, colleague, or mentor. We head to lunch, or out for coffee, or hop on Skype for a few minutes to hash things out, and before you know it, as their perspective brushes against mine, I begin to see God and neighbor more clearly.
“I am the Vine, and you are the branches…” are famous words from Jesus. He goes on to tell us that disconnected from the Vine, and disconnected from each other, our discord will cause all sorts of problems. But if we remain connected to the Source of Life and we work hard to embrace the diversity of our unity with others, we can do anything.
When I view myself as separate from others, either because of their lifestyle, politics, or religion, I miss out on the fullness of God. But if I keep my heart and mind open, willing to learn from others and be challenged by their understanding of God, I begin to taste and see that God is good. Diversity is the spice of life. It is in the richness of our various colors and shades and flavors that God starts to come into focus.
When I look in the mirror, I see just one piece of God. My personality tends to show others a side of God that is the cheerleader, the encourager, and the Good Samaritan. While those traits are not without merit, I need more. That’s why a community is so important. Desmond Tutu said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
When I view those around me through eyes of love, I am better able to see the whole of God:
- In my daughter, I recognize God’s whimsy.
- In my son, I feel the refuge, safety, & gentleness of God.
- My wife shows me the faithfulness of God – what Brennan Manning calls God’s “relentless tenderness.”
- In my father, I witness the ways God wants to grow us.
- In my mother, I see the way God delights in His children.
- My friend Sue is a constant source – a deep well – of God’s wisdom.
- In Rev. Ed Bacon, I see the table of God, where all are welcome.
- My friend Chris shows me how God dances over us.
- My Grandfather always embodied the mystery of God.
- And my Grandmother lives out the Hope, which Hebrews calls “the anchor of our souls.”
Desmond Tutu went on to say, “We are, each of us, a piece of God.” Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s masterpiece.” So when I feel that God is far away, unreachable, unclear, or hiding, all I need to do is connect with my neighbor. Red and yellow, black and white, straight, trans, Jew, Muslim, atheist and every other varied color of the rainbow: together, each of you helps my picture of God continue to come into focus.
This post was inspired by a question on this week’s mailbag episode of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast. Check out episode 64 on iTunes, Spotify, or at AskSteveAustin.com today!
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