On Second Thought: Piecing the year together

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2024

By Marie Harrison

For the Clemmons Courier

I’ve never been much of a puzzle person. Truthfully, I don’t really have the patience to sit and work on a puzzle for hours on end, carefully manipulating tiny pieces until they fit just right and the puzzle is completed. But my daughter? She could sit and do puzzles for days. 

During the holiday break, I found myself, seated at her puzzle table in the playroom, attempting to help her complete a puzzle. But there were so many pieces. Is that piece a part of the star pattern at the top or part of the candle in the store window at the bottom? I’ll admit, about two minutes in, I almost gave up.

My daughter had picked a particularly hard puzzle to complete; a scene from a busy city street during the holiday season with store windows adorned with Christmas decorations, cars driving by with Christmas trees loaded on to, and even ice skaters in a park off to the side. There was so much going on in the puzzle, so many colors, so many similarities, at first it was incredibly hard and I had no idea where to start.

I’ll look for the yellow taxi pieces, I thought to myself, yellow is a color that will stand out and this will be easy. But quickly that plan failed because as it turns out, there weren’t just yellow taxi pieces, there were also yellow star pieces, yellow candle pieces and yellow scarf pieces. Well, now what? I couldn’t give up in front of my teenage daughter. My pride wouldn’t let me admit that this was hard, and, after all, this was supposed to be a mother-daughter bonding activity, a chance for me to engage with something that brought my daughter joy. Failure was most certainly not an option. 

So I did the only thing I could. I started sorting pieces. Clearly some pieces were part of the large Christmas tree in the city square, some pieces were definitely part of the night sky and belonged in another pile, and then it happened. In the middle of sorting, I noticed something. This one piece that was part of the night sky also looked like it had the missing section of a building that was put together at the top of the puzzle. Aha!

I carefully manipulated the puzzle piece, feeling the edges all “click” into place, and my face broke out into the biggest smile when I did it. I had successfully placed one piece on the puzzle board. I wanted to jump up and pump my fist in the air. Victory was mine! And yet, I noticed another piece, and another, and another, and soon the skyline was completed, and the store windows were all completed, and the puzzle was nearly finished. To think, I almost gave up because it was too hard.

As we head into a new year, a time when many people make resolutions, I couldn’t help but think that this puzzle is a perfect analogy for life. The beginning is always hard. We may know what we want to change in our lives or what we want our new outcome to be, but getting there can be confusing. We may try this method or that method, much like trying to fit puzzle pieces into place, only to find that nothing quite works. And this is the point where many people give up. It’s just too hard. They abandon their resolutions much like I wanted to abandon this puzzle. What if instead of quitting, we tried to complete just one simple task. Walking for 5 minutes each day, or exchanging one serving of chips for vegetables, or even going to bed 5 minutes earlier. What if by completing just that one small task, things started to click? What if doing something simple is all it takes to create a snowball effect that allows us to achieve our goals?  

Puzzles aren’t completed in an instant. They are a work in progress with some quick wins mixed in with some challenging moments. At every step along the path, there is always an opportunity to give up and abandon ship. However, with each opportunity to fail, also comes the opportunity to persevere and succeed. Sometimes, it’s just the act of putting one foot in front of the other and refusing to give up that allows us to complete the task at hand. So, whether this new year finds you putting together puzzles or embarking on a healthier lifestyle or even persevering to read through the Bible in a year, I want to encourage you to not give up. After all, even when we are hard, and refuse to listen to reason, and do the exact things we know we shouldn’t; God doesn’t give up on us. His steadfast love never ceases and His mercies are new each and every morning. (Lam 3: 22-23)  We are all a work in progress, each learning to trust God and grow into the people He has destined us to be, one puzzle piece at a time.