A while back Cindy and our nephew spent a number of hours putting together a jigsaw puzzle. They enjoyed the time they spent together. Plus, they enjoyed the challenge of putting the puzzle together. But it sure seemed like it took too much time and effort to accomplish, to me. It wasn’t until I picked up the book, Lovers for Life, and read a story by David Maitland, that I saw how marriage is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. In the Bible marriage is called a “mystery.” I can now see that it is a mystery and a marriage puzzle.
Maitland used the illustration of putting a jigsaw puzzle together as a word picture of marriage. He wrote:
“Sometimes the process is enjoyable and relaxing. Sometimes it is frustrating and challenging. But it is always time-consuming.”
The Marriage Puzzle
Now I sometimes find it challenging to put into words my feelings and emotions when it comes to relating to Cindy in our marriage. (That’s true even after all of these years). So, when I find something that helps me understand the dynamics of marriage a little bit better I want to share it. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only spouse who struggles in this area.
Here’s something what comedian Cathy Ladman says on this matter:
“Marriage is very difficult. It is like a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, all sky.”
Can you relate? We sure can. There’s no doubt that the marriage puzzle is a difficult one to put together so it fits. But when we do it right, it’s sure worth the effort.
See if you can relate to what Maitland says:
“The only way to survive marriage is to realize that your goal is to learn how to fit together with your mate like pieces of a puzzle that unite to form a beautiful picture. So often we marry people who are opposite to us. We then try to shape them to become the same piece of the puzzle that we are. In the long run we design a puzzle that will never fit together.”
Making the Marriage Puzzle Pieces Fit
I can relate to what Maitland says here. That’s because of my approach to putting a jigsaw puzzle together. If the pieces don’t go in easily I can always MAKE them fit by banging on them. (I’m not very patient when it comes to putting puzzles together.) The end result would be that I got the piece in. But it’s not the way it was designed to fit together.
And this approach to marriage sure applies here as well. When I try to force Cindy to do things my way, I only make things worse. For some reason, she doesn’t respond well to that approach. But in all honesty, neither do I.
“The only way to have a healthy marriage is to stop trying to jam puzzle pieces where they don’t belong. Your goal is to learn how you can fit together with your mate like pieces of a puzzle that unite to form a beautiful picture.” (Diane)
Marriage is all about marrying our differences. We need to find ways to work with each other so we’re both satisfied. We just mess things up when we use the “I” approach, rather than the “we” approach to working through our issues.
A Marriage Puzzle Question and Strategy
Here’s a great question that Chris Benton poses that we should all prayerfully consider:
“What are you doing today to benefit the marriage to help bring pieces together? See we all start with a blank puzzle and all of the pieces are scattered together. We have to find the right pieces to create the puzzle. By going through all of the pieces, and learning and spending time together, we start to piece everything together.
“We start by finding the corners of marriage, which are our core beliefs. As we piece those beliefs together we have an outline of what the marriage puzzle will look like as we find more of the right pieces.” (From Chris Benton’s blog, “The Marriage Puzzle”)
This all should be done with God’s guidance. HE is the one who brings meaning into our togetherness. From there we start filling in the puzzle so we can better see the overall picture God wants us to discover about our marriage partnership. We need to approach all of this from God’s vantage point to make our marriage the best it can be. Sure, we can do things our way. But is that the best way to put our marriages together?
Fitting Our Lives Together
I realized a number of years ago that Cindy and I had a tendency to try to make our lives fit together in ways that God never intended. We would try over and over again to get the other to conform to our idea of how the marriage puzzle should fit together. But in the end it came out a mess. It didn’t come out as the beautiful “picture of marriage” God wanted.
Fortunately, a number of years ago we began to realize, as Maitland did:
“If we combined our strengths, we could eliminate our weaknesses. As a result the puzzle fits perfectly together.”
Maitland goes on to say, as it related to him and his wife:
“We began carving out areas where we could use our strengths to help each other. We would try to stay out of the other’s area. Or we would yield to the other’s wisdom in his or her strong area. This took time and communication. But today we are working on the puzzle principle. We have found that we make a great team when we use our strengths to cover each other’s weaknesses.”
The Marriage Puzzle Coming to Focus
Cindy and I have found that when we came to grips with this principle it radically changed our marriage. The more we focus on building up each other’s strengths, the less our weaknesses overshadow everything in our relationship. We can tell you, too, that if this principle didn’t work there would be no Marriage Missions.
God uses us to be a part of your lives. That is because we continue to focus on ways to carry out our responsibilities, each doing his or her best to help the other and glorify God. That is our most important goal—to please and glorify God. When we do this, God clarifies our focus. We focus on being a team—rather than focusing on picking each other apart.
Maitland addresses this by saying:
“We often wonder how many couples are fighting against each other, trying to prove each other wrong, frustrated that their mates do not do things like they do. Some of us can even be jealous of our spouse’s strengths. We’re feeling that their strengths expose our weaknesses. Then we criticize and belittle our mates with cutting remarks. We may be so conditioned to think our way is the only way that we show a lack of trust in our spouses. We worry that our mates’ talents will become so strong that they won’t need us anymore.
“God made husbands and wives to be a team, to be helpmates, to become one. I want to encourage you to look at your wife or husband from a different perspective. Don’t look down on your mates’ weaknesses, but use your strengths to help him or her. Don’t be jealous of your mate’s accomplishments. Let his or her strengths help you to become a better person.
“Our goal should be to use our talents and strengths to complement our mates… help him or her to soar to great heights. If you do this, the pieces of the puzzle you are designing will come together. As you follow this principle, you will not lose your mate’s love and need for you. Instead, you will be astonished at how your puzzle pieces mesh.
Making Marriage Puzzle Pieces Fit
We believe so strongly in what David Maitland shared. This is because we’ve seen it work in our own lives. But maybe you are thinking, “That may work for most couples. But my marriage is way beyond putting the pieces of the puzzle back together again. There are too many missing pieces (from harsh words, abuse, unfaithfulness, etc) to ever be able to make our marriage puzzle into a beautiful picture.” If that’s you, read on:
“When we open our hearts to seek the help of God given to us in His Word, we can begin to put our lives and marriages back together one piece at a time. God wants to help you. No matter how bad your marriage is or how messed up your life is, God wants to help. He proved this by the ultimate sacrifice of His Son (Jesus) on the cross. Take the missing puzzle piece that God offers.” (David Maitland from the book, Lovers for Life)
Cindy and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that without Jesus Christ at the center of our marriage our marriage puzzle would be a mess today. As we begin a new year, let’s determine that with God’s help our marriage puzzles will reflect His perfect picture. If you would like more help on how to do this, we have many articles and resources on our web site that you can share with others.
Joining the Pieces and the Mission
Our desire is that your marriage “Reveals and reflects the Heart of Christ.” We hope you will join us in this mission, in your marriage, as well.
“And this is my [our] prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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