Sunday, August 9, 2009

Puzzled by sanctification?

As Olivia and I were putting together a puzzle last night, we grew frustrated by how much slower and more challenging its completion became once we had moved past putting together the straight edges, corner pieces, and areas of apparent contrast and design. In our puzzle of a beautiful Greek coastal town, large swaths of bone and azure dominated the scene. And while not as immediately striking as the shorelines, church domes, and other brightly colored structures, these areas were vital toward fleshing in the whole picture. As we found and fit in the more obvious pieces, the more obscure and less evident ones became harder and slower.

This seems so much like my own growth and maturation in Christ. God has designed that through faith and the work of the Holy Spirit (which are one and the same), Jesus Christ is to be formed within us (Galatians 4:19), and we are to be conformed to his glorious image (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). In my life (and in countless others' as well, I'm sure), the basic framework of a godly life developed fairly quickly, within a few years. Just as the frame of a puzzle is the first step and gives place and order to the rest, so did the basic shape of Christlikeness form in me as I put aside my old ways of life and learned to live under the gospel.

Then other pieces of the image started coming together, but this time a little more slowly and deliberately. At first the puzzle was exciting to assemble; we were fresh and eager. But now it was starting to take more work, and even after a few hours of work, instead of seeing how much we had accomplished, we starting seeing just how many pieces still remained. Rather than being glad at how much had been finished, we were instead exasperated.

As I grow in Christ, I seem to see more and more pieces of Christ that still remain on the floor and not in my puzzle. I get more and more frustrated at how slowly they find their way into me. When a whole box full of pieces was there, I rejoiced that I had a framework and didn't care too much about everything else. But now I'm starting to see the pieces that still remain, and I get upset.

The beautiful truth is, though, that I can only see them because so many more of the others have already been cleared away. The formation of Christ in my life is perhaps slower and more piecemeal now, but this is because more of his image has already been formed in me. The image is coming together even if I don't see it, focused on what it still lacks. But of this I can be confident: "that he who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). And just as God rejoices in all his works, we ought also to look at what God has already done within us, and rest and rejoice.


Ryan P.T. said...

Amen, brother! This is a wonderful analogy, and so true. You won't mind when I borrow this for a Bible study, right?

Andrew said...

Haha, no, of course not. Borrow away!

Ted M. Gossard said...

I like it, too. Never heard of it before, but it does make sense.

Though I still find myself having to grow in what is most basic in Jesus- sometimes, I have to admit. Such as simply taking up my cross and following which is not hard if we're really living out by faith our baptisms- into Christ's death and newness of life- resurrection.

So there are times when I'm surely even if unwittingly (and wittingly) resistant to God's good work in me in Christ, but because the basic pieces are in place in Christ, therefore I know something is wrong, and I can bring it before God and hopefully it can be a growing point in which the needed and lacking pieces come in place.

Makes me think how the new pieces contribute to more being added.

Well, it's just an interesting analogy. Thanks for it, and I'll surely use it as well in the future, Andrew.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I should say not hard as in natural, a part of us.

Actually it is hard to take up our crosses at times, though to become like Jesus, and Paul's pursuit of that. To want to know him, the power of his resurrection and participation with him in his sufferings. But surely there are those hard moments.

Halfmom said...

The key to putting together a puzzle (for those of us that are 3D challenged and don't "see" the way the pieces fit together) is to memorize the picture on the boxtop. I have a feeling that will fit with your analogy as well - we do much better when we focus on the final picture than the pieces that are or are not done yet.

Andrew said...


It's funny you mention that. I solve puzzles by looking at the picture and then figuring out where pieces fit. Olivia looks at the colors or patterns independently of the picture and then fits the shapes themselves together.