How All the Pieces Fit Together

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted
eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the
whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
– Ecclesiastes 3:11

I can tend to get a little lost at the end of the calendar year. I forget the plot a bit. It happens every year and still every year it’s a surprise. I long for an extended break as mid-November approaches and look forward to time with my daughter. But midway through the break, I get restless and become paralyzed by the stretch of open hours. I wonder if what I’m doing for work and ministry matters. I think about relationships past and feel a combination of regret and nostalgia. I think about money and whether there will be enough. I wonder what my purpose is and whether I’m fulfilling it. I think about decisions I’ve made and whether they were right. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but I become a little unhinged.

And then I think about puzzles.

In January 2013, I tried a case in federal court in San Diego. It was the first case I’d ever tried in which I was the lead lawyer, which meant not only increased pressure, but also the ability to present the case in the way I thought was best. So, when I stood to give my opening statement, I began by showing the jury this giant puzzle piece:

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After all, the jury has a tough job—even though events take place in chronological order, not every witness was there for every event, and yet each witness generally only testifies once.  As a result, the jury hears the story in pieces—part of the story from one witness, another part from another witness, and so on. No witness can share every aspect of the story from beginning to end. In this way, the story told at a trial is very unlike the stories told in books or movies. Telling a story through trial testimony is more like putting together a puzzle. The case I was trying was no exception—the evidence would be presented in pieces, out of order, and sometimes without any context. Also, there was no picture on a box sitting nearby so they knew what the final picture looked like. Not until the very end would they know the whole story and how all the pieces fit together.

Life is this way—the evidence is presented in pieces, out of order, and sometimes without any context. And there is no box anywhere that shows the final picture. The lack of routine and structure around the end of the year makes me lose sight of the fact that all the pieces will eventually come together into something beautiful and stunning and that every piece had a purpose in the bigger story.

One of the most meaningful gifts I received this year for Christmas was from my niece Lucy. It was this puzzle, which I put it together today:

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Without even knowing it, Lucy reminded me what all the pieces point to—love and the crucified and resurrected Christ (I’m not as convinced about the pets)—and that eventually they will all fit together.

Life This Week

IMG_1669I spent this last weekend on a mini-retreat with God.  I have been working in my new position in ministry for several months now and it has been the most rewarding, powerful, grace-filled, exciting experience I’ve had.  I don’t think I’ve talked to as many people collectively in my whole life as I have in the last month.  So, this weekend was me reading Scripture, listening for that still small voice, journaling, writing, being in God’s presence, believing God’s promises, remembering where God brought me from, and learning some new things about his purpose for my life.  In other words, God was filling me.  Some big things came out of this retreat.  Here are some things I’m doing this week as a result:

IMG_1654I’m memorizing Hebrews 12:1-2a:  I need Scripture in my mind, in my heart, and in my mouth.  So, I’m memorizing these verses: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

I’m journaling and praying that I will have clarity about what my race is.  God has marked out my purpose.  He has known it since before I was created.  In my purpose, I will be my most authentic self, the one God has always seen in me despite the ways I have strayed and settled for less.

I’m seeking God’s help in identifying every thing that hinders me.  I want to persevere in the race God has marked out for me.  And so, I need to identify what is holding me back, what is weighing me down.  I’m talking about the stuff that is not sinful, but it is holding me back.  Once I identify those things, I’m praying for strength and courage to throw them and any sin off!  Then, one by one, I’m doing it.

I’m reminding my daughter (and myself) that God loves her no matter what.  One of the very clear promptings from God that came out of this weekend was his desire that I tell my daughter every day that as she grows up she may do things that will lead her to feel disappointed with herself, but she needs to know that nothing she does…nothing…will change the way he sees her or loves her.

I’m saying, “I love you too” to God.  I learned something in a new way this weekend from the amazing Beth Moore.  I want to love God with all my heart, strength, soul, and mind.  Every day, I want to love him more.  But I can only love him because he loved me first.  (1 John 4:19)  He is the initiator.  So, every instance I think to tell him “I love you, God,” instead, I’m going to say, “I love you too.”

What are you doing this week to stay close to God?

Is there a passage of Scripture you could memorize so that it’s in you?

Is there someone in your life that needs to be reminded or told that nothing they have done or will do changes or will change the way God sees and loves them?