I was given a puzzle. It’s one of those classic Thomas Kinkade scenes: light streams from the windows of a cabin nestled in the warmth of pines, a creek flows alongside the house, starlight sparkles off the water. The moon is full and lights up the night. It’s where I want to be, so I begin.
I have a system: first I flip over all the pieces that lie on the table so that the puzzle side is showing. Second, I take all the straight side pieces and put them in their own pile. Third, I assemble the side pieces so I have a border of the puzzle. It is contained, orderly, and organized. Last of all, I begin to fill in the framework I’ve built. I work my way in, the excitement building to a crescendo as it all comes together. There is something incredibly satisfying when I lock in that last puzzle piece. A calm descends, the world makes sense for a moment, I gaze at the illuminated landscape, and then I crumble it all up for another day.
The puzzle assembly process I use is very methodical. It is the way my mind works, my life works, my spirituality works. I believe it’s the way God designed me to navigate through the years He’s given. God is in the edges of my puzzle, encouraging me to be me.
My daughter is another story. Her puzzle is a bunch of brightly colored balloons knocking into each other, banging their luminescence onto her eyes. She doesn’t flip over the pieces or separate into sides and insides. She is drawn to the fire-engine red balloon and scrambles through the puzzle pieces until she finishes that color. Then she finishes the crackling yellow balloon next to it, the summer blue one, the passionate violet one, and so forth, until the balloons almost fly off the table. God’s edges seem to be her last consideration, almost a chore, but one she must finish if she’s to lock it into place. The last piece latches on, and she stares at the puzzle, letting the colors fill her soul. She leaves the puzzle on the table for days before I must persuade her to put it back into its box, quiet and dark.
My daughter works from her heart, spontaneous, wild, drawn to the sizzling color of each day. It is the way her mind works, her life works, her spirituality works. I believe it’s the way God designed her to blast through the years He’s given. God is not only in the edges, but in the center of her puzzle, encouraging her to be what she is.
God is in the edges and the centers, not demanding that we all operate exactly alike. We are not cookie-cutter people. What matters is that we continue to work on our puzzle in whatever manner we do best. And we may go home before our puzzle is finished, clicking in the final pieces above, heaving a sigh of relief. And the world will make perfect sense at last.
Linda Lacy is a short-story writer from Salem, Oregon. She has worked for many years at a homeless shelter and now at a men’s prison.