I never expected to be where I am. In the heart of adversity. Seventeen is the number that symbolizes victory, but for me 2017 appears to reflect a double portion of defeat--the death of my sister, the loss of health. I have struggled spiritually to fit the pieces together. These jigsaw fragments do not link up in the natural. Thank God, there is a place in Him where the pieces fit together to create a beautiful picture--even though I've lost the top of the puzzle box that could help me visualize the scene that's being created. By faith, I continue to each day go to my card table, myriad puzzle pieces strewn about. "Yes, I found an edge piece." The perimeter is coming together, but I have no idea of the outcome. I'm convinced that the end result will be gorgeous, a landscape that mirrors the very heart of my desire. My instruction is to keep going back to the table each day and believe that I will be led to find pieces that fit. And even on days when I am not able to link any pieces together, that does not mean I have failed. I keep going back. Little by little, piece by piece--the process moves me forward to eventually see the beauty that God has created for my life.
Of course, this is merely a metaphor. (You know how I love metaphors). How does working a puzzle relate to moving through adversity? I don't have a formula. I'm experimenting, just as I would if I were sitting at a card table trying out pieces to finish a puzzle. You know how it is: you're convinced the piece surely fits, but no matter how hard you try to press the pieces into place, there is no connection. Then you walk away from the table exasperated. You come back, and try a piece that appears counterintuitive, and ironically you hear that "snap" of connection. And that small victory encourages you to keep trying.
What keeps me returning to the card table? I think my choice to sit at the table is less about effort and more about choosing stillness. One of the most frustrating aspects to managing current circumstances is when I experience physical pain. I've never really had to face the kind of pain I've had over these last weeks. It brings me to tears and thoughts like, "I should be getting better by now; I should be able to walk faster, be productive" surface. Yet I literally can't walk faster or be more physically productive in any way. My choices are to fight it and remain negative, or to move toward stillness, to lie down and meditate on the true nature of God. The choice to move toward stillness has not failed me yet. This choice is like sitting at the card table. Again and again, the physical inactivity allows the pain to subside, and the Words of the Lord bring comfort, assurance, confidence--even joy and thanksgiving (the greatest paradox) as I let His reassurances wash over me again and again and again. This is great victory, another piece found, the number seventeen perhaps living up to its meaning.
Some Scripture that has particularly encouraged me comes from Psalm 18. Indulge me as I write some of the beautiful words here--no doubt puzzle pieces that fit together to keep me moving forward...
The Lord is my rock.
The Lord is my fortress.
The Lord is my deliverer.
The Lord is my keen and firm strength in whom I take refuge.
The Lord is my shield.
The Lord is my high tower.
The Lord hears my voice out of His heavenly dwelling place.
My cry comes before Him, into His very ears.
The Lord reaches down from on high and takes me, drawing me out of many waters.
The Lord brings me forth into a large place. He delivers me because He is pleased with me. He is delighted with me.
And so we all are in process, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves. And we are moving toward an outcome. Yet, I believe, our loving Father holds our hands with such warmth and affection and says, "Don't be so concerned about outcomes. Trust me for that. You know it will be good, because I am good. I lead you through your process, each step so precious to me, because you are precious. 'Work' to be still. Come to the card table, knowing that I provide all you need to piece together the outcome I've created for you. Victory certain."
His actions when we are under pressure are the source of legends. He works everything out for our good. Our part is to abide in the beauty and power of His love and remain firmly on purpose.~Graham Cooke