[Jesus said,] "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:44-45
When my friend Darcy brought me a puzzle out of the blue a few days ago, I thought it was sort of a weird gift. But I do love putting puzzles together, so I ran home and dumped it out of the box onto my kitchen table. Not that I have time for this sort of thing right now, but I thought it might be a good diversion in between writing projects.
It didn't take long for me to suspect tampering…or perhaps trickery. First of all, all the puzzle pieces are almost exactly the same shape. In fact, you will notice in Exhibit 1, the border is fully completed with nothing amiss, all pieces fitting like a glove, yet I had many border pieces left over (see far right). I had no idea what to do with those, so I set them aside for now. And for the rest of the puzzle, you can only put it together by flow of color and design, not by shape of piece, because all of the pieces will fit in a variety of locations. Of course, piecing by primarily color alone on a 3 color, 300 piece puzzle is completely difficult and would take a lot of painstaking concentration, were I to accept the challenge. Then again, I do love a good challenge, which is probably why I would even consider writing books, which are often like very complicated puzzles.
This puzzle, as it turns out, happens to be a match made in Heaven for me (it will go in the Ferwerda Hall of Fame), as there's an uncanny correlation to what I'm going through right now. This year I've begun studying the Bible like never before, and I've realized something. Throughout my life, the Bible has been really hard to see as one cohesive picture (His-Story) where all the pieces fit perfectly to make one finished picture. And my lame attempts to figure them out alone, not applying myself to deeper study with the help of others, haven't given me any continuity. So here is what my new puzzle has taught me about studying the Bible:
The Bible is a complete picture, Old Testament AND New Testament, laid out in many pieces that must be assembled correctly in order to get the accurate picture. If you place each piece correctly, the picture all takes shape and makes sense together. I now believe God made our Bible to be understood by His people. Not saying we will ever have it all figured out because there are many layers, but for me it used to be so random and disjointed, and now I realize it fits perfectly and sensibly, and we can certainly pursue an accurate understandable complete picture in this life now.
It is easy when studying to hastily force similar colors or shapes together without making sure they fit into the scope of the picture. If I'm willing to do the work and apply myself, everything fits eventually, with no pieces left over. But if I try forcing the pieces together ahead of God's guidance, I am in danger of error and false understanding.
It is a painstaking, long-term process, figuring out where each piece fits. It would be far too easy to give up all together out of laziness or impatience and miss the incredible beauty and blessing.
Our only box top is humble submission to the Spirit of God, receiving His total guidance in placing the pieces.
Trying to guess at or reason pieces into the final picture doesn't work, only piecing them, carefully and deliberately, one at a time.
After making the above observations, my conclusions ended as such:
A good student of the Word dares to question, "Hey wait! This piece doesn't fit here. I need to try it again some other way." When we are open to the Spirit to teach us, He begins to show us where we have misplaced the pieces so that we can get back on track. If pieces don't fit, we likely have not searched hard enough to find out how.
A good student of the Word doesn't give up, no matter how long it takes or how painstaking and frustrating (at times). The finished picture of Jesus is worth any amount of effort, piecing one part of the picture at a time until the student finds true understanding.
When I study and feast on the Word, I am feasting on the very presence of Jesus (John 1).
After hours of little progress even as a seasoned puzzle buff, I finally called Darcy in total frustration. "Dudette, what is the deal with this puzzle?"
"It used to belong to the residents at work and when I saw they were done with it, I thought you'd like it." Darcy works in a live-in retirement facility for independent elderly people.
"Well, did anyone notice anything strange about it when they put it together?"
"Oh no-they didn't put it together. It was too hard. They gave up before they finished the border."
Don't let this be the ending to your story. If you want to see how I have been piecing together the puzzle of the Word this year, check out my daily One Year Bible Blog.