Puzzles, Pandemics and Pretty Pictures

I adore puzzles. There is something wonderful in knowing that in all the mess of crooked edges and incomplete design there is a beautiful picture. Yesterday I set up a card table in my living room. I am in the midst of the pandemic consuming our world, and as I a result my pastor’s heart is relegated mostly to phone calls and internet interactions; with only a few precious eyeball to eyeball moments with those I serve and those I long to serve. I have settled into acceptance that we are where we are, and I have decided to make the best of it.

By God’s design, I have a large living room, so a card table is not too much of an intrusion. Coffee in one hand and puzzle in the other, I dumped I the pieces on the leather surface. Out fell a heap of mayhem. Piled one on top of the other, some up facing and some down, was something I knew would eventually be beautiful. I set my cup in the windowsill next to the table and set to work. I flipped pieces and organized colors set about picking out the edges. In short, I started the process of making something fantastic out of something frazzled.

It is quiet here in the mid-morning. I adore quiet, and so, as I worked and sipped my coffee, I let my heart rest for a moment. Rest, true rest, is rare in this world. The frazzled lives we lead are often a source of tumultuousness. Rest? When? After all the driving and meeting and doing and acting and giving and advising? After all the cleaning and washing and mowing and fertilizing? After the company and the dinners? After all the studying and the teaching and the writing and the reading? Rest? It is indeed a rare commodity. Those with children at home have an even longer after list than mine. Where do we find time to rest?

Now, in the midst of what is a life wearing thin, we are asked to deal with a pandemic. Our world is getting sick. Sick scares people and scared stops common sense. As such, every suggestion made is taken to the limit, sometimes to the detriment of self. How much cleaning should one do to prevent a virus from alighting? How much food should one have if quarantined? Evidently, the suggestion is epic in proportion. Just try to find a way to get your hands on some bathroom tissue and you will see I am not exaggerating. Rest? But first, I must clean and scrub and then wash my hands again. I must be sure that I am six feet from everyone except those who are in my own home, and even then if someone shows any kind symptoms of illness. Rest? Really?

I fettered out all the edge pieces and set to work on my masterpiece. Accepting that I am not allowed to have company, I settled back in my soft chair and went to work. There were no interruptions, no demands. Only me and what would become a bright picture of hot air balloons. I weaved the exterior frame together, rewarmed my coffee and sat back to admire my handiwork. It would be pretty, but, at the moment, it looked like chaos. Still, as I went back to puzzling, I found my heartbeat slowed a bit. My mind, no longer able to think of what was required of me next, settled into a simple quiet that required nothing more than trying to find the right color for the piece I needed. In giving up what I usually do and doing what I did, I found myself at rest.

Rest is a funny thing. We deny that we really need it. We do though. Without it the mind eventually goes into an overdrive that spins our thoughts like burning tires on a raceway. It is only in stopping and insisting on doing something other than what we do that our mind can shift into a lower gear and even, hopefully, idle for a bit while we are still.

Being in the midst of restrictions and inabilities to do what I do is not something I like. However, I have found that God will use the most frustrating, difficult, or even scary things for my good. I am stuck here, unable to do anything I am used to doing. Instead, I wait for those moments when in the midst of all this pandemonium caused by fear, I can help someone else to rest. You see, crisis is not always meant to bring us to frenzied action. Sometimes, it requires that action cease. It requires that I let things be what they are, and that I be still.

It is in stillness that God speaks.

I found myself, in between searches for yellow or green or bright red, taking looks out the window and letting my heart open. After all, when you are forced to stay home alone without many interruptions, you discover that you are in quite a safe place. I sat back and closed my eyes and held my heart up to God.

He took it.

There, in the midst of this pandemic, isolated and unable to do what I love to do, unable to take myself out to comfort and serve others, I met with God. His gentle kindness filled my overworked heart. He comforted my worries and calmed my concerns. He gave new direction and encouraged my courage. Then, he handed back my heart and breathed life into me.

In that moment of rest I was reminded, no matter what comes of this crisis, I would be alright. He is in it and he is in control. He is aware of the need and he is concerned for those who are suffering. He is in the midst of the pain and he will act. He always does. What looks frenzied to us will one day be a fantastic show of his beauty.

Until then, I will rest in my chair; I will pray and I will trust him; and I will work my puzzle until it goes from a mangled mess to a masterpiece.

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