I love being able to look ahead to a goal and work backward from that to establish the step before me today. It’s somewhat like making a puzzle, where you’ve got the top of the box to go by, and a zillion colorful cardboard bits jumbled before you. First step – flip them all right side up. Second step – find the edge pieces. Third step – study the picture and choose an obvious image to assemble first (don’t start with the sky!). Fourth step – keep doing this section by section, until – ta-da! – you have a completed picture!
I apply this in life. To my children. (Do you hear the threatening turn in the music?) As if they were a project, a simple flip of a puzzle piece to be maneuvered into place. The picture I’m trying to make with their lives is obvious – to me.
“You don’t want to do that? Why can’t you just calm down, can’t you see it’s for your best? If you do [insert homework, cleaning, saying sorry, etc.], then you will be prepared for tomorrow by having these skills, so why wouldn’t you do it now?” C’mon, just flip. But instead, the puzzle piece tumbles to the floor, face down, frustrated and unyielding.
If my kids could see and understand the trajectories in my head that thread through their lives today, they might be glad for the direction, but they’d more likely rebel. It’s not their picture. They have their own puzzle box lids to look at and only they can assemble it. God has given them their own puzzle box to follow, and I only see glimpses of it. God shows us parents enough to support them in seeing their pictures, to show them how to assemble a puzzle, but not enough that we can put them together piece-by-piece. What’s inside is between Him and them.
Oh, that’s humbling. And it takes a huge amount of confidence in God to not put my hands in the puzzle box, trusting that He will assemble the picture.
When I want my child to behave a certain way, or cooperate with my plans, and I push into steel-edged word-weapons, impatiently enforcing immediate change I know that I am working on my own puzzle, not holding the box to theirs.
As a parent, I know better. I know raising my voice isn’t the right way. I know they have to make their own mistakes. I know that they should choose what I want them to choose because my experience informs that. But that’s my experience, not theirs.
But, dear parent, do you know that Jesus put up with your mistakes and misbehaviors, your past ones and your present ones, even the one you are committing now as your eyes set in hard flint, your voice rises in sharpness, and your blood boils?
Jesus often waits for years for that opportune moment, for that puzzle piece to click into place. We, parents, need to humble ourselves to the master puzzle maker, for we do not see our kids’ pictures clearly. We, parents, need to have confidence in his ability to work out the trajectories in our kids’ lives. We, parents, need to provide the home for our children to develop their own relationships with God, and we need to show them how to be a puzzle piece in the hands of God, how saying sorry and asking forgiveness is part of our pictures, too.