Puzzle Pieces

Image by Mike Sweeney from Pixabay

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. –John 14:1 NIV

My youngest grandson loves to put together jigsaw puzzles. So I keep several age-appropriate puzzles around for when the he comes for some “Grandma time.”

When he was five, his favorite puzzle was a 100-piece pirate ship puzzle, which he could put together without my assistance. But I still helped, assembling the border. The straight-edge pieces are much easier to figure out than the inside. By the time I had the border in place, he’d already completed quite a bit of the inside. It’s a good thing the puzzle makers put a picture on the front of the box. Without it, I’d get too frustrated.

Ever think that life is like a jigsaw puzzle?

Imagine what the young Jewish girl Hadassah, an orphan raised by her uncle, felt when she was taken to be a part of King Xerxes’ harem.

Hadassah’s dreams for a husband and family were dashed. What were her chances of being chosen to the queen of Persia? Uncle Mordecai, who held a high position in the civil service of the empire, advised her not to reveal her family background or nationality. So she had to do things no nice Jewish girl would have done. So much for her reputation.

But she found favor with the head harem keeper, who pampered her more than the other girls, and put her in the best place in the harem. After twelve months of beauty treatments, the time came for Hadassah, who now went by “Esther,” to go to the king.

“Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. He set a royal crown upon her head and made her queen” (Esther 2:17).

But things did not remain settled for Queen Esther. You know the story—how she risked her life to uncover a wicked man’s plot to annihilate the Jews.

Sometimes we focus on the risk and courage aspect of this story—and that the bad guy gets caught in the end—and forget that Hadassah didn’t know how her life story would play out. First she’s orphaned, then taken from her adopted home to be a part of something that would only bring shame to a young Jewish girl. Then, when everything seems hunky-dory, she’s asked to lay it all on the line.

I imagine, like us, she wondered how the pieces of her life would fit together. By itself, each puzzle piece seems to make no sense. But as the pieces are patiently fit into the overall pattern, the picture becomes clearer.

Life’s puzzle, however, doesn’t come with a picture on the box, at least one we can see.

Our Maker, though, does—indeed, He has designed it—and patiently directs us, one piece at a time.

When the pieces of my life don’t seem to fit anywhere, Lord, remind me that each piece has a place in the picture You created just for me. Amen.

Read through the Book of Esther in one sitting.

© 2012, 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

In Midian

Mount Nebo
Photo by Berhold Werner (Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. – Proverbs 19:21(RSV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

Moses—now there was a man who had it all—prosperity, power, prestige. But this prince of Egypt, thanks to his impulsive nature and nasty temper, became a refugee, fleeing for his life in disgrace and fear. Instead of a palace, the wilderness. No longer the proud prince, but a lowly shepherd. Talk about culture shock.

I wonder, as he tended sheep in the godforsaken desert and on the lonely mountainsides of Midian, did he think he was all washed up? A has-been? That the best part of his life was over? How long did it take him to stop missing the splendor, the hype? Did he feel as though he lost his purpose?

Then, after 40 years, Mission Impossible: “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:9–10 NIV).

Oh, right. Like that was going to happen. Moses knew Pharaoh. But he didn’t know God. So he hedged. He made more excuses than a kid who doesn’t want to do his homework.

But man cannot argue with God. Well, you can, but you can’t win. For every excuse once-mighty Moses gave, God had an answer.

So Moses spent the next 40 years leading a stubborn, rebellious, cantankerous nation over one million strong through both a physical wilderness and a spiritual one. It was for this that Moses was enshrined in the famous “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11). He died a great leader with a fame that endures to this day, a fame he never could have achieved as a prince of Egypt. (Other than King Tut or Cleopatra, do you know the name of even one Egyptian royal?)

But I wonder, as he dealt with the constant complaining, the mercurial temperament of a nation whose loyalty and emotions were as fickle as an ambivalent teenager’s, as he quelled rebellion after rebellion, as he wore himself out settling their petty disputes—did he long for the quiet hillsides of Midian, tending to a flock that was undemanding, whose major flaw wasn’t stubbornness but stupidity?

Back in his heyday Moses didn’t want to rule Egypt; he wanted to rescue the Israelites. Right idea, wrong time. Moses needed to spend some time in Midian, in the wilderness classroom, to learn patience and humility. When God saw Moses was ready, He called him to his destiny, his purpose.

Sometimes we find ourselves in Midian, wondering if we’re all washed up, if somehow we missed God’s purpose for us. Or we wonder if we’re being punished. Or perfected. Oh, Lord, I’ll never be perfect! So I wonder if I’ll spend the rest of my life stuck in Midian, in a wilderness where the only attention I get is from needy sheep.

But I can’t handle the pressures Moses had when he traded his sheep for people. But then, everything that happened in Moses’ life had a purpose: to prepare him for the job God had planned for him all along. Moses wasn’t perfect when God called him—or afterwards. He blundered and thundered and made both the Almghty and the Israelites mad.

But he learned in lean times to lean on God. The leaner the time, the harder he leaned. And he learned that where God sends, He also enables and provides.

God hasn’t changed.

If you find yourself in Midian, enjoy the peace and quiet, the absence of strife and chaos. Work with God as He molds you for the job ahead. Then you might wish you were back in Midian.

But, then, it could be your job is Midian.

In that case, take to heart the words of another man who, centuries after Moses, found himself in his own Midian, a jail cell: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11 RSV).

Dear God, if I spend the rest of my life in Midian, help me to be content. Help me to know that You will fulfill Your purpose for me (Psalm 138:8). Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 2:1–3:10

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.