I remember reading Curious George Goes to the Hospital when I was a child. The man in the yellow hat is unable to finish his puzzle because the impish monkey, who of course represents children everywhere, has accidentally swallowed the missing piece. Being a single man who is just a little bit too invested in his monkey (and not enough in his wardrobe), he rushes George to the hospital. At the taxpayers’ expense, mind you. Not to mention violations of the hospital health codes. Apparently no one on the hospital staff even notices the difference between a monkey and a child, which is somewhat alarming.
At this point it becomes obvious that the man does not have many children. When you have your first child (or you are a single man living with a monkey), every mishap scares you into thinking you must call 9-1-1. A swallowed puzzle piece leads to a trip to the hospital. By the time other children come along, you would just tell the child to be thankful for the extra fiber and go on your merry way. As I once heard, when the firstborn swallows a dime you rush to the emergency room. When the third child swallows a dime, you deduct it from his allowance.
My children own many puzzles, but when they were very little they decided it would be a good idea to mix all of the pieces together. By the time they were done playing with all of these pieces, half of them were gone forever, either swallowed by the chasm of darkness under their beds or perhaps even swallowed by the kids themselves, à la Curious George.
Now that they are old enough to be interested in actually doing puzzles, they wanted to sort out all of the pieces and match them to the appropriate puzzles. This activity was a valuable learning experience. The kids learned sorting and cooperation skills, and I learned that it really has been a long time since I have had a decent vacation. By the time we were done, we had ten incomplete puzzles spread out across the floor.
Missing a puzzle piece does not seem like a big deal until you have spent days, nay–weeks, trying to assemble the puzzle. It’s like reading hundreds of pages of a crime novel and discovering at the end that the last page is missing. It’s not as bad when you start out with a child’s wooden puzzle. The pieces all have raised red pegs, as if to say, Here, let me help you find me when you step on me in the dark. Plus, the puzzles only have six pieces, so if you lose one you have only invested five minutes of your life.
As we scoured the house for missing pieces, I was reminded of The Parable of The Lost Coin. Jesus taught about a woman who had ten silver coins and lost one.
“Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?”
Yes, in the same way you would search for a missing puzzle piece.
Jesus described how such a woman would then gather her friends and celebrate in the same way that there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. When the kids and I found missing pieces and set them in their proper places, we skipped the neighborhood party, but we rejoiced over the sense of completion.
Jesus has an ability to look into someone’s heart and find the missing puzzle piece. When a rich young man approached him and asked him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus was able to look at him and tell him the “one thing,” the missing piece, that he lacked (Mark 10:17-24).
The heavenly realm rejoices when we care enough to light a lamp, sweep out our hearts, and seek the Lord diligently for those missing pieces in our lives which are preventing us from perfection. For some of us it might be one huge wooden piece with a red peg. For others it might be many smaller, complicated pieces. Whatever it is, The Master is waiting and willing to help us find the missing pieces. If we choose inaction, our puzzle will remain dusty and incomplete on the shelf of life. But if we choose to complete the puzzle, what a day of rejoicing that will be.