Spirituality for Today – Fall 2017 – Volume 22, Issue 1

The Missing Piece

Janice Alonso

Last summer I my oldest granddaughter, nine, and my great niece, eight, stayed at my house for a week of what they lovingly referred to as "Camp Mimi." I'd planned for us to spend our mornings hanging out by the pool while the temperatures are cooler, and I'd thought we dedicate our afternoons to craft projects. In June, however, the rain poured the entire week that we'd set aside back in January for our camp. The girls blew through the craft projects I'd prepared in record time, so I pulled out one of the jigsaw puzzles I keep in reserve. This particular puzzle was 300 pieces, and once assembled it produced a peaceful beach scene. A cottage, boats, and seagulls stood in the background; in the forefront was a white picket fence with a row of colorful kites propped up against it.

While the weather outside was "frightful," we worked diligently inside, eager to see how all the assorted pieces fit together to replicate the beautiful picture on top of the box. As the number of pieces became fewer and fewer, we realized there was one missing. Sure enough, upon completion, there in the middle was an empty space. We'd enjoyed the time we'd spent together working on the puzzle and anticipating the feeling of accomplishment when we were finished. The problem was, we just didn't feel as joyful because the picture was incomplete. We looked everywhere, but admitted defeat and called off the search.

I continued to look for the piece after they'd gone home, even leaving the puzzle with its obvious gap on the table in hopes that the piece would eventually turn up. In July, I had the same granddaughter and her two-and-a-half-year-old sister for a few days. One morning as we played animal hospital, a sharp squeal broke through the room followed by giggles and the slapping of bare feet against the tile floor.

"Mimi!" the toddler shouted breathlessly. "Found it! Found the puzzle piece!"

Clutched in her tight little fist was the missing piece. We praised her, gave each other high fives, and even hopped in a little victory dance to express our joy. Before we inserted the piece to its proper spot, I took a picture of it and sent it to my niece. She, too, was ecstatic. Now, if you are not a fan of jigsaw puzzles, our discovery may not mean as much to you. However, I do think most of us can relate with similar situations. There is a definite satisfaction in completeness… seeing a job through until its end. The parables of the Prodigal Son and the lost sheep are two stories that immediately come into my mind about a "missing piece."

In my younger days, I felt that the son who'd remained home and been the good son had gotten the short end of the stick. Why, I questioned, did the son who ran away from home, shirked his duties, and squandered his fortune receive such celebration when he returned? That certainly didn't seem fair. Over the years, I think I've begun to understand: the joy came to the father because the errant son was the missing piece. The Prodigal Son completed the picture. Just as the one hundredth lamb completed the shepherd's flock. While we are grateful for all the pieces already in place, there just isn't that total joy derived from a complete design… there is a hole, a gap, an empty space which mars the picture.

If we look at Corinthians 12, we see another message about the symbol of a missing piece. We find that all too often we are that Prodigal Child. In God's plan, we are the missing pieces. We are not bringing our gifts to finish his work to complete the design. When we open a box containing a puzzle, we only see a jumble of unconnected pieces that make no sense. Upon closer inspection, we see that each piece is unique, and it is only when each piece takes its proper place that a perfect image may form.

As humans, we are like those puzzle pieces. We each have a purpose. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (27-30)

The obvious answer is that we each are unique with different gifts. And, these gifts will change throughout our lives. My degree is in English. I taught writing and literature as my profession and extended those skills to teaching Sunday school, Bible studies, and volunteering in various literacy programs.

These days I write more than I teach in a classroom setting but in between those two ends, I have served others by cooking, attending to the elderly, and greeting people at our church doors. In my mind, I rank some of these jobs as more important than others. The Bible advises us differently.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all of its parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (12)

In a puzzle, the four corner pieces are nothing without the edge pieces to make a border, but the border is only a frame that holds an empty landscape. The frame will remain meaningless until the inside pieces join "hands." Within our beach scene, there were pieces that were all white – they were the clouds. The blue pieces were sky and ocean, and the beige pieces provided the sand. Some pieces had intricate designs with a rainbow of vibrant colors. Just as many had one color, or like the cloud no color at all. But each piece was necessary… each piece was vital to complete the picture.

God created each of His children with care, love, and precision for a specific purpose. Whether I am the author of a story that touches thousands of readers, or the ear that listens quietly to a friend whose heart is breaking, I am doing my part to complete God's plan.