Jigsaw Puzzle Spirituality

Solving a Jigsaw Puzzle

I remember as a young priest I was visiting an older woman we’ll call Veronica whose life was in chaos. She was grieving over a broken marriage. Her children were a disappointment. She had health problems and money worries. She had emotional and relational difficulties. In addition to this she talked too much. The poor soul went on and on and on.

I spent a long time listening to her. Then I spotted a jigsaw puzzle in a box on her desk and I had a brain wave. As she was talking I leaned over and took the puzzle, opened the box and dumped all 1500 pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on the floor.

She was shocked and stopped talking.

It was my chance.

I said, “Veronica, I’ve been thinking. Your life is like that jigsaw puzzle. It’s all broken down into tiny little pieces and scattered everywhere.”

She cried out, “Yes! Yes! You’re right! My life is like that jigsaw puzzle! That’s exactly what it’s like!”

“But I can tell you this: God is in the business of putting that jigsaw puzzle back together again. He wants to take each piece one by one and carefully, painstakingly put it all back together and he knows exactly what you will look like when you are put back together. He knows that you’re beautiful and good and that you can be healed.”

So it still seems to me.

When we’re broken and shattered by life, that’s when God steps in. When we’ve run out of resources that’s when God takes charge. He works carefully and delicately to fix things. He works behind the scenes – most often doing his best work when we are unaware. All he demands of us is that we sit down at the table and try to do that work of putting it all together with him.

This is what it means to co-operate with God – to align our wills to his will to get on with the work of being made whole – the work of becoming a saint. In this tacky world of instant gratification we want to be saints immediately. We want to be made whole with a quick fix. If it were possible we’d have a spiritual face lift or spiritual botox.

We forget that sanctity is the work of a lifetime. Sanctity means doing all the little things well. Piece by piece like the jigsaw puzzle – it means dealing with our problems in a mature and faith filled way. It means praying our way through the difficulties, seeking reconciliation, learning more, giving more and loving more so that gradually we are restored and made whole.

Why not take this as an Advent message? Make a Catholic new years’ resolution now during Advent to see yourself once more as that scattered jigsaw or that jigsaw puzzle that is still incomplete, then get busy with the Master Builder and finish the job.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the author of “Listen My Son” – a commentary on the Rule of St Benedict for families. Visit Fr. Dwight’s website to buy a copy here.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He is author of thirteen books on the Catholic faith. Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing is available in Catholic bookshops and through his website: dwightlongenecker.com

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About the Author

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He conducts parish missions, retreats and speaks at conferences across the USA.

His latest book is The Romance of Religion - Fighting for Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Visit his blog, listen to his radio show, and browse his books at dwightlongenecker.com.

Catechesis teaches us what to believe and how to behave, but Catholics also need down to earth advice for putting their faith into action. For help in your practice of the Catholic faith sign up for FaithWorks! -- Fr Longenecker's free, weekly newsletter on the practical practice of the Catholic faith.

Visit Fr. Longenecker on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/frlongenecker.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.

Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA.

Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome - Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son - a daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints.

In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from 'Mere Christianity' to 'More Christianity'. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian.

Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He wrote Christianity Pure&Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008. His latest books are The Gargoyle Code - a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden Certainty, Adventures in Orthodoxy and The Romance of Religion.

Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine, St Austin Review, This Rock, Our Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel. He’s working on a book on angels and his autobiography: There and Back Again.

In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. This brought him and his family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He is the Administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and an oblate of Belmont Abbey.

Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a chocolate lab called Felicity, cat named James and various other pets.

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