When That Next Piece of the Puzzle Doesn’t Fit Perfectly

What puzzle are you piecing together right now? {Image credit: junsu / 123RF Stock Photo}

My daughter and I sit on the floor in a sea of puzzle pieces. She holds this one piece. Twisting it, turning it, trying it again and again, my 4 year old just knows it belongs right there! Half her time assembling the puzzle goes to the fight with this one piece. Then she finally lets it go, picks up another… instantly finds it’s place in the picture. And one after the other, with less effort over the 10 remaining pieces than she’d poured in to the one wrong one, the picture comes together.

Isn’t that how it is for us, too?

We get a vision—a picture, a dream—in our minds. An image of where we’d love to be in our relationships, our careers, our health. We step out in faith, begin to put pieces together. The picture is emerging—the vision begins to feel real.

Partway through, a mix of momentum and habit (and perhaps a little pride?) finds us fighting… yelling at an inanimate object and wishing it would just change shape already so we could get to the final product!

I know that place well. Piecing together a vision of writing books, speaking hope to women. Fitting together pieces of my daughter’s broken heart and mind. Putting my house back together after it flooded a few years ago. Reconnecting with friends who are important and had become that missing-piece-hole from simple neglect.

As we do the work of breakthrough—the piece-by-piece obedience of choosing the vision God’s inspired in our hearts—we will have those annoying “Why won’t this d#&@ piece fit in that space already?!” moments.

And, like my preschooler and her puzzle, we have choices about how we’ll respond.

What NOT to do when a life piece isn’t working out (yet):

  • Get mad at ourselves for trying the wrong piece, trying the right piece upside down, or even needing to walk away and take a break for a minute.
  • Settle for a half-done puzzle because we’re too scared we’ll screw up to try another approach or piece.
  • Blame that wrong piece for wasting our time.
  • Throw out the puzzle entirely because, clearly, that frustration means we probably didn’t see the picture right the first time.

What we can do instead:

  • Take a break. A time-limited break (because open-ended breaks easily become never-come-backs). During the break, seek God for the next step and let yourself rest like Elijah did in desert, and Jesus did by going up the mountain to pray.
  • Breathe. Draw deep life-giving breaths. Physical ones (we stink at breathing, people), and metaphorical ones (listen to music, get outside in nature, read scripture and other inspiring words).
  • Trust yourself. Trust your own experiences… that you have completed other puzzles before. Trust that you’ve figured out the location of the pieces in the current puzzle so far. We aren’t coming to the current challenge empty handed, and we have to trust the skills we bring to God to use in this season, too.
  • Trust your guide. In my daughter’s example above, she trusted me to guide her. When she honestly thought she could do other puzzles but THIS ONE would be the one that defeated her (how often do we think like this???) she listened to me, to the encouragement, the faith I had in her, and that she wasn’t alone in figuring it out. The same is true for us with our heavenly Guide.

“The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” – Isaiah 58:11

Those breakthroughs we’re longing for? That “perfect fit” piece we’re turning, flipping, fighting with? We must simply keep turning… resting… choosing another. Not just for us or for that dream we’ve glimpsed in our hearts, but for Him. He’s sitting with us in the sea of pieces, encouraging, smiling at our progress. It may never feel perfect, but He’s there. And the breakthrough is coming.

-Laurie

Pssst. If you’re a mom who’s beating her head against the wall of “why can’t I get this piece to fit perfectly right?” in any area of your life, may I recommend Jill Savage’s new book, No More Perfect Moms? It hits stores February 4th. As a member of her launch team, I’ve read it and LOVE it!

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  • Cathy Horning

    Great analogy my friend! I love the illustration, and I love puzzles! I think I have been trying to fit a puzzle piece in that belongs to another puzzle. Grateful for you and your ministry!

    • http://lauriewallin.com/ Laurie Wallin

      Ah, yes. I do that often, too. Or spend a lot of time putting together a puzzle that is missing one piece! Lord, give us patience and a great sense of humor for this whole crazy puzzle life! :) Love you!

  • Mothering From Scratch

    {Melinda} Love this, Laurie! So many times, I’ve tried to force the “piece” to fit! It is exhausting and disheartening. Maybe I’m just weary or maybe I’m finally trusting God more, but I’m much better at not trying to force my piece to fit. I’m learning His way, even when I don’t understand it AT ALL, is best. So happy about your daughter’s awards this week. :)

    • http://lauriewallin.com/ Laurie Wallin

      Those are such faith-filled words, especially knowing what you’re facing right now. I do think it’s the weary that gets us away from fighting Him about everything… it takes too much energy to fight, and then we realize the not-fighting was the wiser thing anyway!

  • Eileen

    Great reminder,Laurie. We easily forget that when the pieces don’t seem to fit we have a choice on how we respond.

    • http://lauriewallin.com/ Laurie Wallin

      That’s exactly it — no matter what is happening, we always have a choice.

  • Julie Sancken

    Not sure why my picture isn’t showing up!

  • Julie Sancken

    This is a perfect analogy for me right now. Thank you SO much for this!

    • http://lauriewallin.com/ Laurie Wallin

      So glad it resonated. Thanks for stopping by, Julie!

  • http://twitter.com/kristinhtaylor Kristin Hill Taylor

    I love the puzzle analogy and all the practical advice you shared.