I recently did something I haven't attempted in years: put together a 1,000 piece puzzle. I admit, I didn't seek out this challenge for myself. It was cunningly presented to me by my sister. Well, maybe not cunning. She just brought a puzzle over, plopped it on my kitchen table, and helped me sort and complete the border. Then she left. "Errands." uh huh. Likely story.
I admit that I was able to resist the draw of the puzzle for a few days. 1,000 are little more than a jumble at the beginning. In fact, they're kind of a big mess. One of the hardest things to do is to narrow in on one color or pattern or landmark and begin making sense of it all.
But by experimenting and eliminating and carefully examining the example picture...little by little...the pieces start to come together. Before long there are little clumps of the pieces that take the senseless mass of color and turn it into a little bit of the big picture.
Those clumps are a turning point for me. Because once you have a clump or two, it's easier to figure out where other pieces go. "I'm looking for a piece with a green line down the middle." or "I'm looking for a piece that's green and oddly shaped on one side."
And right there, while surrounded by the innards of a half-finished puzzle (that's generous...let's say quarter-finished), a verse came to mind: "Let us not give up meeting together...but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:25).
I've always associated this verse as a sort of "go to church" command, where the benefit is for those who are meeting together. But it struck me that maybe it's just as important for those who are outside of the clump.
Because when clumps start to form, those disconnected pieces have a better idea of where they fit into the picture. For a person who has a green line down the middle, or who is oddly shaped on one side...seeing that gap in the picture could change everything. They can go from being lonely to being connected. From wondering what their piece means to seeing how it adds to the greater picture.
But that can only happen if the clumps stay faithful and sticking together.
And only a tiny part of that is being in a special building on a certain day of the week. It's about the relationships that get us through all the joys and trials that life throws our way.