Nobody can say we didn’t have some good things come from the last 3 months. For instance, we now have a new conversation starter: “So, what did you do during the Great Quarantine of 2020?” I know someone who learned French. Another has started (but not finished) War and Peace. Yet another has binge-watched The Sopranos. For my part, I organized (and indexed!) the spice cabinet, cleaned the outdoor furniture and learned how to make crepes. I also re-discovered jigsaw puzzles.
John Spilsbury is credited with producing the first jigsaw puzzle in the 1760s in London. He mounted maps on sheets of hardwood and cut along national boundaries using a marquetry saw. These “dissected maps” were used to teach geography. People who assemble jigsaw puzzles are still called dissectologists. During the 1880s, fretsaws were more commonly used for cutting the shapes and the name “jigsaw” became associated with the puzzles forever. Now sharp-edged punch tool dies or lasers are used.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a huge demand for puzzle purchases, much as the Great Depression did in the 1930s. Ceaco, a Massachusetts company, sold more puzzles on one day in March this year than it did during the entire month of December. Ravensburger, one of the world’s biggest puzzle manufacturers, reports that its sales for the first part of 2020 were up 370% over the previous year. The Liberty Puzzle Company in Colorado has a waiting list to just place an order. A search for 1000-piece puzzles on Amazon shows delayed delivery dates for many of the most popular ones.
My attraction to puzzles started as a distraction. I purposely did not want to hear, read or see any news. I have a personal theory that too much negativity can make you physically sick. Almost like meditating, I now focus entirely on the shapes and colors of the puzzle pieces. I listen to music or listen to quiet, but either way, peace is present and anxiety is not. It’s easy for me to become absorbed in the puzzle image and to see reminders of that world in non-puzzle settings.
I think the most wonderful effect of working a puzzle is the sense of order and completeness it brings when done. You can’t very well say that 99% of a puzzle is good enough. No puzzle is complete without each piece. No piece is more important than another. Every piece is necessary to finish the challenge.
And that brings me to the point of the story. You were probably starting to wonder — We have had so many sensitive, insightful devotionals over the last few months, but jigsaw puzzles?
Jesus said our Heavenly Father loves and values us so much that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. (Mt 10:6)
Henri Nouwen’s writing based on Psalm 139 puts it this way:
Listen to what God is saying to us:
You are my child.
You are written in the palms of my hand.
You are hidden in the shadow of my hand.
I have molded you in the secret of the earth.
I have knitted you together in your mother’s womb.
You belong to me.
I am holding you safe.
I want you to know that whatever happens to you, I am always there.
I was always there; I am always there; I always will be there and hold you in my embrace.
You are mine.
You are my child.
You belong to my home.
You belong to my intimate life and I will never let you go.
I will be faithful to you.
Each one of us is a vital piece of God’s puzzle. We are all His children, precious in His sight. He needs each of us with our own special shapes, colors, talents and flaws, to worship Him, listen to Him, follow Him and to make His kingdom complete.
Offered by Mary Thompson
Our devotionals are going out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, with an occasional lagniappe issue. Please look for these congregation devotionals in your email box at about 6:45 a.m.