When life takes sudden turns or has become difficult and frustrating in unexpected ways, that tends to make me stop and re-evaluate. Sometimes it’s the nit-picky things that hinders me from seeing life from a broader scope. Since I’m a visual person, experiences and information have to roll around in my mind until they form a picture that encompasses it all and I can say, “I got it!” I’d like to share that picture with you.
I see the life we live here on earth as being given a gift that-- when opened-- we find a large picture puzzle. So how does one set about putting together this puzzle? For me, I began to search for the four corner pieces. Having the four corners in place lays a framework for the whole picture.
I called the first corner piece “What’s My Anchor?” What do we rely on to hold us steady in times of adversity when it feels like life and emotions are adrift in a stormy and uncertain sea? Is it the career, family, marriage, the bank account, our health, looks or talent? While these can all be wonderful things, they can change in an instant. Then what? What can we anchor ourselves to that does not move, does not change, and is always secure? What is exactly the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow? I know of only One: God Almighty. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:4 NIV. And in Hebrews 6:19, the Bible tells us “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” What is YOUR anchor?
The second framework puzzle piece is, “Who Am I?” That’s a tricky one. Most of us define ourselves through many eyes, usually not our own. The media taunts us daily with what we’re lacking: beauty, health, wealth, social status, or material possessions. Family heritage can shape our values and perspective but doesn’t really tell us who we are as individuals. If we define ourselves by relationships, we’re in big trouble. Children grow up and move away, marriages end in death or divorce, a silly argument can break up a life-long friendship, a sudden shift in the chain of command at work can result in unemployment. All of these events leave us to question our role, our worth, and our own personhood. But who knows a book best but its author? Who knows an invention better than its inventor? And who knows the creation (us) better than the Creator? “For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 NIV Not only did God create us, but He says in Isaiah 43:1: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” “I have engraved you on the palms of my Hand.” Is. 49:16 NIV. So I have been told that God created me, that He has redeemed me, and I am His even to the point of Him engraving me on the palms of His Hands. Do I choose to let those magnificent promises assure my identify or the latest fashion magazine or, perhaps, even a critical relative? Who or what defines who YOU are?
The third corner piece is actually made up of two parts. It’s called “The Realm of Influence.” The first part is what we allow to come into our minds as an influence. It is a daily choice. Just like the old computer jargon states, “Garbage in - garbage out”. Whatever we fill our minds with, is eventually played out in our lives. There is much protesting in my house when I turn off the TV with the comment that “We will not fill our brains with images like that!” One of my favorite Bible teachers did a series entitled, “Where the Mind Goes, the Man Follows.” How true that is! The second part of the “Realm of Influence” is who we have an influence on. We all have a circle of family, friends, neighbors, working associates, etc. who hear what we say and watch what we do. So I asked myself: Is what I believe evident in my life? Is what comes out of my mouth representative of what fills my heart? Some days it’s a real struggle to put into practical living what I know to be true. And how about you? Does the realm of influence you allow IN spill outward onto your circle of influence? What can others tell about you by what comes out of your life?
The last corner piece of the framework is called “Where do I go from here?” This piece is a sum of the other corners. It takes what I believe, what I know about myself, and what I fill my mind and life with, and puts it to use. I can choose to use it selfishly, hoarding what I’ve learned, my time or talents. Or I can spend it on things that really matter. And what really matters? I learned a little something from a financial class I took once. It said, “You can spend your money any way you want, but you can only spend it once.” The same is true with our time and energy. I choose daily to encourage others with what I’ve learned. Where and how will you spend yours? “Where do I go from here” is our final goal, when all is said and done and I’m looking back over my life, where do I want to be? What can I do now so I have no regrets then? Will my circle of influence be better off because of my contribution?
What about the puzzle pieces themselves? They are the parts that make up the picture of our lives. Some of them are called “success” “prosperity” “love & acceptance”. They are bright, shiny, and the highlights of happiness in our lives. Others have different titles like “grief” or “illness”, maybe one is entitled “wayward child” or “financial hardship”. God takes all of those pieces and puts them together to form a complete, beautiful picture. We’d all like our puzzle to be made up of the bright, shiny pieces. But it takes the dark, shadowy places to add depth and character to the whole picture.
Perhaps you’re like me. A few years ago, you had an idea of what the whole picture would be. But something happened and the puzzle got changed, the pieces scrambled. It may be a surprise to us, but it’s no surprise to the Lord. Will you let Jesus put together a new picture from your pieces? Because you see, our basic framework is still the same. It’s what we anchor to, it’s who we know we are, it’s what we choose to let in our lives and go forth from our lives, and it’s the final goal we aim for.
As a closing thought: “He has made all things beautiful in its time...” Ecclesiastes 3:11 Did you catch that? “All” things! When? “In its time” - not our time, “in ITS time”. God bless you and may you choose to let God be the artist who designs YOUR big picture.