As I was watching my son work a dot-to-dot recently, I got to thinking. Just glancing at the numbers on the page, it’s impossible to tell what the finished product will look like. Sure sometimes the developer throws in some hints — an eyeball, a smile, or some other feature. But for the most part we are dependent on following the directions and watching the picture unfold one line at a time.
Of course, one of the most important parts of successful completion is following the proper sequence. Otherwise, the end result gets all messed up — and even if you retrace your steps, the picture is distorted — not at all what you’d like it to be.
I couldn’t help but think about how much life is like those puzzles. Scripture tells us that the Lord orders our steps (Prov. 16:9). He has a plan for each person on this planet. No one escapes his notice or his care. The problem is that not everyone submits to his plan. Even seasoned believers tend to just do OK — not great — at exercising patience and dependence on God. We like to think we know better than he does. Our favorite non-paid job is often that of God’s Assistant. Like a little kid trying to “wing” a dot-to-dot puzzle, we often make several critical mistakes:
- We presume to know what the ultimate picture will be. Admit it. Sometimes those numbers give a indication of what the picture might be. When we fall into the presumption trap, other tactical errors are sure to follow.
- We fail to follow the directions. Although the directions are ALWAYS the same — and oh, so simple — we frequently try to maximize our time. We make up our own order. . .pick our own colors. . .and create a very abstract image — not at all resembling that which the author intended.
- We try to fix the problem ourselves. We scratch out certain connecting lines. . .redraw others. We try to make some of the lines darker so we’ll know those are the right ones. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that we end up with an even bigger mess.
The only way to really repair a messed-up dot-to-dot puzzle is by getting a clean copy and starting over — this time, following the directions. No winging it. No altering the pattern. No trying to improve it. No coloring outside the lines.
Isn’t this true for our lives? While God doesn’t necessarily make us follow such rigid directions, He does give us some very clear guidelines for how to live our lives. But He also allows us a generous measure of free choice. Of course, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “All things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
When we make up our own rules, we are sure to make a mess. How wonderful for us that we serve a God who is willing to help us get back on track. That doesn’t mean that we always get to get a “new copy” to start all of life over again — without the mistakes. But it does mean that his grace is sufficient, and his mercies are new each morning.
As we commit ourselves to live by his standards, He is able to help us see the error of our ways, make course corrections, and still come out with a beautiful picture in the end — a picture that demonstrates his goodness, his grace, and his faithfulness to those who love and trust Him.
How are you doing in this dot-to-dot of life? Have you gotten ahead of God? Have you written your own rules? Have you started coloring outside the lines, pretending to be your own little god?
If so, I encourage you to get a new lease on life — and a new opportunity to find redemption for that picture. Don’t hesitate to start anew. Jesus came that we might have life — and have life abundantly (John 10:10). So what are you waiting for?
The puzzle of life
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