The full, marvelous picture

By Rita Buettner
When I met my husband 13 years ago, we were living almost a two-hour drive apart. When we decided to marry – it was either the second date or the third – we didn’t exactly have a plan. We knew that one of us had to find a new job, at least if we wanted to live together once we were married.
I remember meeting with our friend, Father Larry Adamczyk, a few months before he celebrated our wedding at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. We told him that we didn’t know exactly how our married life was going to take shape.
He wasn’t worried.
You have to remember, he told us, that God is putting the pieces of the puzzle together. When we do a puzzle, we have to place pieces next to one another. We have to look at the box to see the picture. We have to make sure the pieces connect. Maybe we even build the frame of the puzzle first.
But God can approach life completely differently. He can place the pieces of the puzzle anywhere. They don’t always make sense from our perspective, but God knows the whole picture, and he can place them in any order.
I found that comforting, though we still felt we were taking a leap of faith, setting a wedding date while leaving only about seven months for job hunting – not to mention finding a place to live.
Still, as we counted down to our wedding day, the puzzle started to take shape. Two months before the wedding, I started a new job, and we found a brand-new, little apartment building in a small town between our jobs. Construction finished right before our wedding; we moved in after our honeymoon.
Since then many times I have been confused, wondering why we were being led in a certain direction; why we were struggling with infertility; why our offer on a house was rejected; why God was asking us to travel to China to become parents.
The individual pieces of the puzzle often made no sense to me.
They didn’t need to.
I wasn’t the one building the puzzle.
“Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to his love, and the future to his providence,” said St. Augustine.
Trust. That’s the key to believing that God’s plan and his timing are perfect, even when we can’t see or understand. And it isn’t always easy, especially when we know what we want that picture to look like.
As we begin a new year, I could list my hopes and concerns and wishes, but the truth is that my plan for the year is not going to define it. After all, I don’t know what the puzzle will look like in the end. I have no choice but to step forward in faith and hope, trusting that God can see the full picture.
These days when I sit down to work on a puzzle, I usually have a few young helpers. We turn the pieces over to see the colors. Then we start sorting by color. Some of us like to build the outside edge of the puzzle first, but one of my children doesn’t think that’s necessary. He just looks at the box and starts connecting clusters of pieces.
Sometimes we have to crawl under the table to find lost pieces on the floor. Most of the time, though, we work side-by-side, celebrating every piece that slips into place and marveling at the picture that is appearing.
When I look at our children laughing as they work on our dollar-store puzzle, I am in awe. The picture God had in mind for our family is more magnificent than anything we could have pieced together on our own. I wonder what He has in mind for the New Year, for each of us. 

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Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.