I have heard it said that the human heart is a mystery. I have also heard it said that the human heart is unpredictable. While those statements may be true, in my experience a person’s heart is also a complicated puzzle. Like most people I know, my life began with a wholeness of heart. God makes beautiful things and I was no exception to the truth of Psalm 139:13-14; “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” However, being born into a fallen and sinful world, my heart would not remain whole for long. Before I was even old enough to remember, my family was broken apart by divorce. By the time I was six years old, my young eyes had witnessed betrayal, abuse, abandonment, addiction and apathy. A once whole heart had been cracked and shattered into a million puzzle pieces and I would spend the rest of my growing up years trying to put the puzzle of my heart back together.
The first thing you are supposed to do when putting a puzzle together is to fashion the border. So, as a young girl I began to try to fit the pieces back together that would form the outer layer of my heart puzzle. Unfortunately this border became a barrier. I wasn’t going to let anybody work on this puzzle, including God. Instead, I picked up the puzzle pieces of shame, regret and unworthiness and placed them where I thought they would fit best in my puzzling heart. Perhaps you can relate to my story. Is there something in your past that has formed a barrier in your heart? Is there a piece of your personal history that just doesn’t seem to fit with who you are or who you want to be? I longed to have those pieces cut off and removed but was powerless to do it. You see, I didn’t know the truth that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15) I had no idea that those puzzle pieces that were so unlovely to look at could be made new. So, I kept people at a distance in order to prevent them from seeing the border of my heart. When we use the ugliest pieces of our heart’s puzzle to form a border, it only forms a barrier to believing that God can re-make us.
In my young adult years, I had become exhausted and overwhelmed with all the pieces of my heart that just were not fitting into place. So I decided that I needed help. I began to look for someone, any person, who would help me put those pieces into place. Where did trust go? Where did hope belong? Where could I fit the puzzle piece called love into my heart? The problem was that there wasn’t any person capable of handling this monumental task. Without the picture of the puzzle to work from, another person’s guess on how to put the puzzle together was as good as mine. Friendships failed because of my unrealistic expectations. Romantic relationships were non-existent because of my neediness. Loneliness became a constant companion and the puzzle was incomplete. Sure, I learned to shove pieces in here and there. Maybe I could shove the pursuit of money in the space where love was. Maybe I could squish perfection into the space where trust belonged. And maybe I could slam knowledge into hope’s position. The more I tried to re-create this puzzle, the uglier it became. Have you ever been ashamed of your own heart? Have you ever wished it looked different? If only I had known what the psalmist knew in Psalm 51:10. I would have cried out to God, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Instead, there were holes in some places and tightness in others which led me to a place of darkness and frustration. My heart was heavy and I didn’t like it, so when it finally burst and shattered in my early adult years, I tried a new tactic. I tried to take the pieces of other people’s hearts and put them into my own. I would become a copycat. I would look at what other people were doing and do it too, following the ways of the world. I began a family and tried to put the puzzle back together by borrowing pieces from my kids and my husband. Have you ever done that in your life? Have you tried to focus so much on other people only to lose yourself and your heart in the process? In the busy-ness of raising a family, the puzzle pieces of my heart were lost and forgotten. Lacking the enjoyment I saw that other wives and mothers had, I knew something was wrong. I had no idea that the truth was that I was “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [I] walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit … at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom [I] lived in the passions of [my] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [was] by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
I finally realized that putting the puzzle of my heart together was an impossible task and that I had no idea how to do it. I let the pieces fall to the ground and in the midst of all that mess I finally heard the question I had never heard before –“Would you like me to help you with that?” Jesus is our Savior in so many ways, but He is also the only One who can put the puzzle of our heart back together. As our Creator, He is the only One with the original picture of what it looks like. Years of anguish and frustration could have been avoided had I only said Yes to God when He asked the question over and over again throughout my life: “Would you like me to help you with that?” Child of God, saying Yes to Him means letting Him, the puzzle master, put the pieces of our hearts back together. It means that our hearts, as mysterious to us as they seem, are tenderly and deeply known by Him. It means the first piece of the puzzle rests in the authority of Psalm 139: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (v 15-16) Saying Yes also means opening our eyes to God, letting Him into our mess so He can re-design those ugly pieces according to His promise – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8.
Saying Yes to God means letting the pieces of our heart drop into the capable hands of Jesus so that He can put them back together according to the original design. It is living out the truth of Matthew 11:29 in which Jesus, our puzzle master says: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The borders of the puzzle of a heart belonging to Christ include trust, faith, hope and love. Sure, a person’s heart may appear mysterious to the world, but it is affectionately known by the God they trust. Proverbs 3:5 reminds us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” A person’s heart may be unpredictable to other people, but its design is not a surprise to God. He says to us: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) A person’s heart may be less than perfect, but we can find strength in the hope of Psalm 31:24: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” A person’s heart may be a complicated, frustrating puzzle but it’s completion at the hands of the Master will be the greatest picture of love. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
When God offers to help us put the puzzle of our heart back together, we should say Yes. It might be painful and difficult. It might take longer than we would like, but the final product will be so much more dazzling than anything we could have made ourselves. And we will rejoice in this truth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Are you ready to hand over the pieces to the One who can perfectly put them together? Then it’s time to say Yes to God!