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  • Writer's pictureHenry Rafferty

The Great Puzzle

Old Testament Reading- Jeremiah 1:4-10

New Testament Reading- Romans 8:28-33

By Henry J. Rafferty CP -July 10, 2022

I want you to imagine for a moment that all of creation is a giant puzzle, no not a puzzle that contains trivia, but a giant jigsaw puzzle. This puzzle is vast, so much so that people never get to see the whole thing at once. The puzzle comprises all of time, all that has ever been created, and all eternity, like I said, it is vast. The puzzle has a theme that runs throughout the entire thing but is different at the same time. Its themes run from one part of history to the next, never stopping, always changing, yet in some strange way, always remaining the same. The puzzle is multilayered, composed of periods that occupy time and space, but also other areas where time has no meaning. Confused yet? Intrigued yet? Either way, listen on.

As you can already see, this is no ordinary jigsaw puzzle. It reminds me of the chess board in the original Star Trek television series, the one that Spock used, not like ours, that was one dimensional, but one that utilized multiple boards linked together that the pieces on the board could travel between. As I told you before this jigsaw puzzle is multilayered similar to Spock’s chess board, but far more complex, even for the Vulcan mind. This puzzle

can only be seen by God, none of His other creations can see all its parts. Not the angels nor human beings, not even Satan himself has the power to see this whole puzzle, yet each of us has a hand in its making.

You might think that I am going to say that we are all the pieces of the puzzle, but I think it is much more complex than that. We are sometimes the pieces, sometimes the ones moving the pieces, and sometimes we are helping to create the pieces as the puzzle is put together. Some imagine God as a puppeteer that is using us as His puppets, animating us beyond our control and finding great joy in our sufferings. Hogwash, that is not our God. Our God is not interested in puppets, but real-life people living their own real lives. If our God was as terrible as some think, we would be pieces of the puzzle only, that were placed exactly where God puts us and we would have no choice in it, but as I said, we are much more than pieces in this puzzle.

To understand this puzzle, first you must understand the meaning of it all and that can be summed up by one powerful word, love. 1 John 4:16 tells us,

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

Know this, God does not require anything to sustain Himself, He is the Almighty, but He chose to create us, His children out of His great love for us. This should not be a hard concept, especially if you have children. Before you had children, they did not exist, yet you did and you would have continued living even if they hadn’t been born, but after your children were born, you couldn’t imagine living life without them. Why? Because you love them so much. God is even more so this way as His love is timeless and without sin, pure love, which we cannot conceive of yet. God does not need us, in the truest sense of the word, but we are an extension of His all-powerful love, maybe even a part of Him, an outward result of His love. He loves us so much that He created everything for us, I don’t know about you, but that is an awesome, yet humbling feeling.

So, if we can understand that we are a part of this grand puzzle and that we are not just pieces but co-authors with our Creator in how each piece fits into the whole. We must also understand that although we don’t get to see the top of the box to know exactly how everything will look in the end, if you can really say that eternity is an end. We should know that, like any jigsaw puzzle, every piece must fit together perfectly for the whole puzzle to work. You can try to put similar pieces in the wrong spot, but it just never fits right, and it always leaves another piece out in the end. Only God knows what the top of the box looks like, and we must have faith that He knows what He is doing, in fact, that is faith.

In the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, becomes overcome by life’s troubles and attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge. He is saved by his guardian angel, Clarence. George tells Clarence that He wishes he had never been born and that the world would have probably been better off without him. This, unfortunately, is a common statement by those who contemplate suicide and Clarence tells him he mustn’t think this way, but it also gives him an idea. He looks toward heaven and ask that it be done, and just like that George Bailey had never been born. When the two of them go back out into the night, George finds that everything is different, the town has a different name, a respected pharmacist is now a homeless alcoholic, George’s little brother is dead, and many other things in the town are changed for the worse. George asks why everything had changed and Clarence tells him, “George, it is because you were never born. You weren’t’ there to keep Mr. Potter from changing the town, you weren’t there at the Pharmacy to catch a fatal mistake made by the pharmacist, and you weren’t there to save your little brother from drowning, which in turn made it so he wasn’t alive to become a war hero that saved other people from dying too. All of this because George Bailey, the hometown boy that thought he never did anything important, was alive to do all those things. Of course, we know that in the end all is made right and George comes back to his life with a renewed hope and the many gifts that a, so called, normal life has to offer. You are no different, we are all an integral part in the grand puzzle.

British 17th Century Family Tree with Portraits of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth, James, and Charles engraving Rosenwald Collection 1980.45.30

I have done a lot with ancestry, and I have found that it is also like putting a puzzle

together. We each know pieces of our ancestry and once you start putting them together you find that it is all a very large portrait. I have gone back as far as the 1500’s in some of my lineage and the more I found out the more I was amazed at how each person and every decision they made in life influenced what came after. For example, I found that through my maternal line, I had a ten times great grandfather who was a preacher in 17th century England that did not agree with the Church of England. After years of persecution by the Crown and the Church, he and 101 other passengers set sail with a crew of 30 to 40 men on a ship headed to the New World, a place where they could worship as they saw fit and to raise their families in a place where they would not be corrupted by the wealth and privilege of England. These people were known as Brownists, but later became known as Puritans, and they sailed for the New World on a ship that you may know of call the Mayflower. My many times great grandfather’s name was William Brewster, and he was the eldest member and designated spiritual leader of the group. Obviously, this was fascinating to know that one of my ancestors was on the Mayflower, in fact, I found that I had more than one family I was descended from on the ship, but I was amazed at how this small bunch of Pilgrims, over the next 400 years, produced a ton of relatives. Talk about being fruitful and multiplying, these folks had huge families, with ten and twelve children being not uncommon. But I also found this, that had one of these people altered one decision in their life to move to a different place or to marry someone different; I don’t exist.

I was thinking about this one day and I examined just my short life alone. Had my maternal grandfather not moved from Penfield to Erie to work at General Electric during WWII, my mother could have still been born, but what are the chances she would have met my father who was born in Erie? Its possible, but is it probable? Here is another, I told my nephew that he probably wouldn’t exist if I had not had one certain friend in high school. As you can guess, he had quite the quizzical look on his face, but bear with me. I was on a baseball team at thirteen years old that placed me and my future friend Troy together. We were in the same grade in school and knew each other, but we weren’t really friends yet. As the years went on though we became more like brothers than friends, sharing many adventures and misadventures together. Troy had a brother, Eric, that was six years older than us and later in life he was in the Air Force, stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. When Eric retired from the service, he helped run a company near Dayton as an electrical engineer. The night before my friend Troy was getting married, we were all together for the rehearsal dinner and Eric asked about my brother, Dan, who was also an electrical engineer, and if he had gotten out of the Air force yet. I told him no, but it would be soon. Eric told me, to have him get a hold of him if he was looking for a job, he would love to have my brother on board. Well, when Dan got out of the service and was looking for a job, three offers came up for him, one of them being from Eric, which he took. Now, where is this all going? I made a decision to have Troy as my friend, which introduced me to his brother Eric, who then I introduced to my brother, Dan. Eric then hired Dan, who then moved from Florida to Dayton, Ohio. Later Dan met and married his wife Mechelle and together they had my nephew, Conall. Wow, a long way to get to where we were going, but you start to understand that each decision we make in life is not always as trivial as you may think, and many decisions if made differently would alter the world.

In this puzzle of life, and ultimately of love, we influence everyone we meet in ways that we couldn’t believe possible. This puzzle connects us, related or not, to each other in ways that affect our faith and our salvation.

We have been talking about decisions that mainly alter people being born, but what about other important matters like faith? Remember, we are all instrumental to the puzzle. In this puzzle of life, and ultimately of love, we influence everyone we meet in ways that we couldn’t believe possible. This puzzle connects us, related or not, to each other in ways that affect our faith and our salvation. The minute that you decide to follow Christ and become a Christian, you have a valuable part to play in the work of God. You are now a very large instrument in placing puzzle pieces for God in a way that fits His box top. Remember that I told you that this puzzle is multi-layered, as it covers more than earthly time. This is where Christians really come into play as we should have a puzzle piece that is very nearly shaped like Christ’s own piece. You probably didn’t realize that Jesus is a part of the puzzle too, but that is one of the most wondrous parts of this puzzle, that God has such an active role in it. I told you this puzzle is complex yet connected in every way and in all ways through God.

If I have learned anything in this life it is that nothing is by chance, but all part of this elaborate puzzle that we all fit into exactly. Even if you don’t believe in God, you still fit into the puzzle and are important in some way. Look at Judas and how he fit into God’s plan of salvation, unfortunate that his choices took him down an unhappy path, but his piece was still important. Only God knows the good pieces from the bad, but he also uses every piece according to its own design and continues to form the picture of the box top at each step along the way as time marches on.

How do you fit? I believe that as long as you breathe, you are still being picked up, rotated and placed down into the puzzle again for a better fit. Will your piece resemble Christ? Will your piece be a cornerstone like Jesus that will allow many others to fit because of you? Will you have enough faith that God’s knowledge of the box top is better than yours? The puzzle can be hard, will you be patient enough to play the game out together, or will you decide to go it alone? I can tell you this, there is a place where Christians get together and help each other, and where they learn to help the world with the puzzle, its call the Church. It is the place where God shows you images of the box top to help you and to help you to help others. Let us continue to pray that we may have a clearer image of the box top, and a greater faith for the parts we can’t see. Knowing that how we live and what we do for others has the greatest impact on how God’s puzzle goes together to finish the ultimate vision of love. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.

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