The Puzzle of Marriage

My daughter thought it would be fun to get a 1500 piece puzzle to work on as a family over winter break. 

"Fun" is relative.

For people like me, it feels more like a challenge, something to complete. It's about the finished product, not the journey. It's about conquering a feat that seems so impossible at the outset.

All those tiny pieces that all have a place. And not just any place, but a specific one. 

Details. Sometimes I hate details. 

But in the interest of family "fun" and now that the constant stream of holiday company around the dining room table is over, I've brought down the puzzle, laid out the mat, and started hunting for the edge pieces.

And, I've started thinking about how marriage is much like this puzzle.

IMG_0611.jpg

God gives us the end picture. We have the image on the box. We know what marriage is supposed to look like. We leave our fathers and mothers, cling to each other, becoming no longer two, but one. We love and respect each other so much so that it's a picture of how Christ loves the Church. We're like iron, sharpening each other, whittling away at each other's imperfections by speaking truth, with love and grace. We go forth and multiply, creating a new generation who will love and serve Jesus, passing down our spiritual heritage so we can continue to live out the great commission to go out and make disciples.

We know how the picture is supposed to look, but all we have is the jumble of pieces in front of us and some semblance of hope that eventually it will all fit together as it should. We flitter through the pieces sometimes, though, and think to ourselves, Really?

IMG_0609.jpg

Does marriage really have to be this hard?

Is marriage really worth all this effort?

Do we really need all these pieces?

Just like a puzzle, marriage takes patience. It takes hunting for the evasive corner piece. It takes trying new ways of fitting together. It takes flipping things upside down. And sometimes it takes seeing things in new ways—the one piece you never thought would go there is actually the perfect fit.

Just like a 1500 piece puzzle, marriage takes time.

As I stared at all the pieces, it was easy to get overwhelmed. Maybe you, too, look at all the pieces of your marriage, and you're not even sure where to begin. Or if it's even worth it. Maybe you wonder if it's worth the time or if you have the patience level for it.

Maybe you wonder if you really have all the pieces you need.

There's a lot of searching. There's a lot of trying and failing. There's a lot of sighing and frustration and wondering if it will ever be finished.

But then, there is also, the satisfying click.

The click that comes when you find two pieces that match, that form to each other perfectly. It's the feeling of victory, of progress, of knowing that you are one step closer to the overall picture.

The feeling of winning. Of conquering. Of closing in on a goal. Of taking a mess and turning it into beauty.

Puzzles, like marriage, marriage, like puzzles, take endurance. And some of you, I know, like me, like Craig, we've all endured a lot. Because we are messy people with wounds and brokenness. We have a lot of sharp edges that take years and years to refine and soften. Sometimes, things happen and though we had a thousand pieces in place, we now have to start over.

There's nothing romantic or poetic about this really. It's gritty, but satisfying work. Not glamorous, but solid. Worth it. All the time, all the energy, all the frustration.

Because every click brings you together in a new way. Every click means you're looking more like the person God created you to be. Every click means healing, refining, and beauty.

IMG_0610.jpg

And all your clicks? They not only make a difference for you, but for the world. A picture that shows the people around you that God doesn't give up when it gets hard. That God doesn't reject imperfection. That God doesn't abandon us to try to figure things out alone.

You may not feel like you're clicking much these days, but as you prepare yourself for the new year, would you consider offering up your puzzle pieces to Jesus? Would you ask Him to help you show you how things might go together? 

Craig and me—our puzzle isn't complete. We constantly have to ask God to reorder our lives so that we're looking more like the picture on the box. But while we know the struggle is real, we also know it's so worth it.

It's easy to look at this puzzle and see what remains to be done. It's easy to look at the long road ahead instead of the few pieces that are joined. But celebrating the clicks, the few or the many, is what keeps us going toward more clicking. 

Today, celebrate a click. Thank God for the progress, no matter how seemingly small. Every one is valid and valuable.

It's all a part of the bigger picture.