I love dollar stores! Seriously- I refuse to buy some items at regular stores when I can pay ¼ of the price (or less) at the dollar store. Recently I had to go to the dollar store for one of those items with my kids.
My kids are aware that the only place we buy coloring books is the dollar store. As we came to that aisle, they all just looked at me- asking without saying a word. “Go ahead,” I responded. Then my daughter caught eye of the puzzles right behind the coloring books. “You can get one thing,” I said. “Coloring book or puzzle. Your choice, but only one.”
I’ll be honest. I did not pay attention to what they got. I knew one child chose a coloring book while the other four chose puzzles. It wasn’t until we got home that I realized my oldest had chosen a 500 piece puzzle with very small pieces.
With the help of his dad, he got a table prepared to work on this puzzle throughout the coming days. One afternoon I sat down at the puzzle table to help. I kept looking at this certain piece of the puzzle thinking, “This should fit here.” The boys had a string of about 7 pieces that needed to fit in a spot for only 5. So, I kept working in that area. It soon became clear, I was right that string of 7 pieces should fit in that spot. But it didn’t. Why didn’t it fit?
I took that string and tried to place it in. Two pieces overlapped the section that was finished, so I didn’t force it.
Then it occurred to me, maybe these pieces are not supposed to be together. Sure enough, those two pieces that overlapped did not actually belong in that section of the puzzle. BAM! Got it!
Now we can move on and work on the rest of the puzzle. Those two pieces quickly fit in next to the spot where the string went, just not in the string. In order to figure all this out, we first we had to identify the misplaced puzzle pieces.
When completing puzzles, both metaphorically and physically, it’s not uncommon for our hang-ups to be missing pieces. But how often is the problem really that a piece is in the wrong place? It’s easy to do. With all those little pieces in the puzzle, some are bound to look alike with a similar cut.
I’m not afraid to admit when I started my faith journey there were some major missing pieces. But there were also quite a few pieces that were in the wrong spot.
One of my biggest hang-ups early in my walk was thinking that I knew Jesus. I mean, I grew up in a Christian school. I attended church weekly. I even said prayers before every meal and usually before bed. These were all important parts of the “puzzle”, but they weren’t even attached to the core.
I knew all the stories about Jesus. I had the Christmas story and Easter story practically memorized. I could list off any fact about Jesus you wanted to hear. So, I thought I knew Jesus. But I didn’t know Jesus any differently that I knew Abraham Lincoln. I could list you some facts about him, maybe even tell you a little bit about his family life, but that’s about it.
Many times, we think we know people, but we only know the surface. Ask anyone from St. Louis if they know Yadier Molina. Everyone of them will tell you yes. He’s been the Cardinals catcher since 2004. They maybe be able to tell you all his baseball stats. A few people could list some personal facts. But I guarantee no one knows anything he wouldn’t post on social media. I am willing to bet if I asked what’s his wife’s name, 90% of people who just said that they know him would have to do a google search to find out. The truth is- not many people know him personally. They know of him. They are a fan of his.
Here’s another example- when I was dating my husband I thought I knew him. We spent a lot of time together, growing in relationship, but once we got married it soon became apparent I didn’t know him very well at all. How did he take his coffee? How does he prefer his eggs? What does he do with his dishes once he is finished with his meal… (Sorry, honey, had to throw that one in there.) Today, married 9 years later, I am still getting to know my husband in new ways. I am actually learning this is very similar to my relationship with Christ. I will always be learning. There are parts of the puzzle that haven’t been found yet.
I saw Jesus as a fact in a book. Not as a person who is alive and accessible. I saw the Bible like a history book, not as the living word of God and a book that could enhance my relationship with God. I had to remove that piece of the puzzle and let the Holy Spirit show me where to put it.
Because I thought I had that piece in the right spot, I crippled myself. When people suggested reading my Bible, I was like- nope, don’t need to do that. I know Jesus. When people suggested deepening my prayer life, I was like- nope, my prayer life is fine. When people said they heard from God, I thought they were crazy. I didn’t realize God can and does speak to His people.
Misplaced pieces of the puzzle can cause much more havoc in a person’s life than missing pieces. Just because we think we have it right, doesn’t mean we do. As a person who claimed to know Jesus and really didn’t, I was misrepresenting Christianity. I literally was teaching people by my example and words an incorrect message of faith.
Learning that the piece was misplaced helped me open that spot up and allow the Holy Spirit to show me the missing pieces. We must be open to change, conviction, correction, and growth. One thing I have learned is that faith is an on-going journey led by the Holy Spirit. It is full of ups and downs and everything in between. However, the journey does not end. You can never stop growing in relationship with God.
Don’t get in your own way of spiritual growth. If there is a misplaced piece of your faith, remove it, pray about it, and let the Holy Spirit guide you as you learn where that piece belongs.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”