Jigsaw puzzles remind me of my job (and maybe yours)

I bought myself a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas and have been wrestling with it ever since. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s Pieter Breugel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs. Try that in 1000 pieces! It’s been a blessing and a curse, much how some of you might feel from time to time about your vocation, whatever it may be. I’ve loved working at it and have been slowly compiling a list of ways that jigsaw puzzles remind me of my life’s work. Perhaps some of these resonate with you.

  1. It’s okay to start at the edges as long as you spend time everywhere else, too.
  2. It’s easier to work in the light than in the dark.
  3. If you’re honest with yourself, you can tell when there’s a perfect fit and when you’re forcing something that isn’t meant to be.
  4. The job is easier when you can see faces.
  5. It’s tempting to think there are missing pieces, but there generally aren’t. You just haven’t yet found what you’re seeking.
  6. Just when you think there’s a pattern, there’s a surprise.
  7. You get a lot done in one small area, but the work yet to be done looms large.
  8. It’s not cheating to look at the picture on the box, but be sure to adjust your expectations to match the real thing.
  9. Systems theory is helpful, but more often than not, you just need to do what’s in front of you.
  10. Most of the time, the work is satisfying and even joyful. When it’s not, it’s okay to take a break.
  11. Sometimes, there actually¬†are¬†missing pieces, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Journey of Lent

I have been ranting a bit about the word “journey.” Like so many words, if we use it too much, it loses meaning. Lately I’ve been hearing too much about the cancer journey. A friend now receives regular posts from a blog called “Your Young Adult Cancer Journey.”  We talk about our faith journey, our life journey, our vocational journey, our journey to adulthood. When someone is near death, we pray for their journey to the next chapter. I recently preached a sermon on the Transfiguration gospel that begged for the word, and I refused to use it–instead, I talked about the gospel being about movement, about Jesus’ trek to Jerusalem, about the mountain top as a way-station, and about our call to trudge on level ground.

(My sermon looked like this. This is a change for me in my homiletical journey…what do your sermons look like when you’re ready to move from preparation to delivery?)

All journey-bashing aside, those of us who follow Jesus are, in fact, embarking on what we often refer to as our Lenten journey which is, at least for me, very much like all of life. Lent is a time to look at what I let between me and God, a time to clean up and a time to pare down. It is a specific journey through the calendar toward Holy Week and Easter, and also a journey toward only God knows where. I came across a poem recently by Ellen Bass which might be my very favorite poem this week, “Asking Directions in Paris.” You can watch and listen to the poet read it here, and I hope you do. If you don’t, here are the lines that stopped me in my tracks:

And as you…set off full of groundless hope,
you think this must be how it is
with destiny: God explaining
and explaining what you must do,
and all you can make out is a few
unconnected phrases, a word or two, a wave
in what you pray is the right direction.


If you find yourself on a Lenten journey or any other kind of journey, I pray that you will, indeed, find yourselves full of hope, groundless or otherwise, that God will lead you in the right direction.


Psalm 143, appointed for Ash Wednesday