Faith lessons and puzzle making

As a father of young children, it is always so gratifying to see our kids form their own ideas, discover talents or do something that causes us to burst into laughter. Watching them grow on a daily basis, learning and realizing so much, makes me marvel at their beauty as God’s creation.

An example of this comes from our son Isaac, who has amazed me recently through his love for puzzles.

It is such an experience to watch him sit down and take out a box of pieces and start putting them together.

Now, keep in mind he’s only three years old, so I don’t want to give the impression he’s assembling intricate 250-piece puzzles forming a picture of a horse crossing a tunneled bridge or a majestic waterfall with people paddling in their canoes.

I’m talking about puzzles of 30 to 50 pieces that, when all fit into place, show a cast of pirates with their treasure or a bunch of barnyard animals on a farm.

Just the same, Isaac has so much fun working on his puzzles and continues to grow adept at his skill the more he practices.

While we’re not yet at the point of tossing a football around or playing catch at a nearby baseball diamond, one of my favorite activities with Isaac has quickly become making a puzzle.

I love sitting down together on his bedroom floor or at the kitchen table, spreading all of the pieces out and watching him get to work – or, I should say, work his magic.

Both a test of patience and a moment of pride for me, it is remarkable to watch our son think through his options and problem solve with each piece.

He runs through several stages of emotion along the way, showing anything from a perplexed look on his face to one of determination.

So long as Isaac doesn’t give up, his persistence pays off, and he will blurt out with innocent excitement, “It fits!” or “We did it!”

Now, throughout the process of assembling a puzzle, I’ll occasionally remind him during his eager anticipation that there are still pieces missing and that the entire image is not yet complete.

After all, while he may be getting closer to achieving the final product, the puzzle is not finished until all of the pieces are in their place.

Similarly, we as humans are like a puzzle, needing all pieces to be in place for a perfect and whole fit.

Yet, how often do we struggle at finding that missing piece, trying to replace it with unsatisfactory or inadequate substitutes?

How often do we seek total happiness, striving to fill that hole in our hearts but without including God – the only one who can truly offer what we crave in life?

The linchpin of complete joy, so many of us deny ourselves a relationship with the Lord only to find something missing from our being, attempting to cover that void in our hearts with any and all alternatives.

Whether we have social status or a job title, wealth or material possessions, how many of us still deprive ourselves of fulfillment simply because we don’t invite God into the center of our lives?

A luxurious home or an employment promotion, fancy cars or stylish clothing, a trip to a hot vacation spot with friends, sports championships, top academic grades and acceptance into a prestigious college or university – we can easily fail to acknowledge how none of these or any other experience can afford a person lasting, genuine pleasure on their own.

Our faith teaches us that if we include God as the central part of our existence, we can find authentic joy and take on everything else as reward from Him, rather than replacement for Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

While some people may resort to unhealthy activities such as drugs, alcohol or promiscuous sex in their quest to be purely happy in life, even the most wonderful of events – such as graduation, falling in love or having a family – can still leave a person lacking meaning or feeling empty at the core if God is shut out.

Certainly, in those instances when we stray from God’s path, we can be reminded that, just as a puzzle can break – such as when Isaac’s little brother Hugh sometimes comes along and takes a few pieces – we can always start again.

After all, God always forgives and always offers us a second chance to know and live with Him.

And so, amidst all of the busy goings-on of our daily living, let us be humble and disciplined enough to seek God in earnest, in order that we can find what we so desperately desire. (Proverbs 8:17)

Only then can we find ourselves with a heart filled with joy, while no longer feeling puzzled about our lives.

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About the author

Matt Charbonneau is a high school Religious Education teacher based in Ottawa who inspires his students to explore a deeper relationship with God. Applying uplifting lessons, engaging activities, and insightful experiences, he strives to demonstrate the powerful presence and unconditional love of God in everyday life.