Theology in the Trenches

It was a puzzle
Kathleen Kjolhaug
Sunday, February 9, 2020

With blizzard conditions roaring out of doors, the puzzle purchased lay in wait for such a time as this. Twas a puzzle alright, just a piece of it to be exact, that the dog chewed up. Never mind there were still 999 pieces left, it was the one…the one piece she’d snatched at some point during the day that turned up on the rug. As we picked it up, we felt defeated before we’d even begun.

It was our very first jigsaw puzzle that we were about to attempt as a married couple, and thus it began.

How bad can it be? That thought surfaced as we trudged upstairs to empty its contents upon the table. The picture on the box looked pretty enough, so why was I skeptical as to what this experience had to offer over the next few weeks? I wasn’t sure, but we were about to find out.

Emptying the contents was the easy part. Turning over each piece followed suit…so far so good. He worked on his pile of pieces, and I worked on mine. Duplicating real life… we got the hang of it quickly. I was surprised as to how much satisfaction came with each piece found that was a match. Squeals of delight erupted as I shared the good news. Nary a word left his lips as he quietly worked, once again, replicating real life.

Upon entering the puzzle room on day two, I spent some time reflecting upon the one lone piece our doggy had decided to chew on. After discovering it wasn’t quite her taste, she left it lying upon the floor all trophy like. It was perhaps her way of signaling that she, too, was a participant!

Picking the piece up…we took note that each piece of a puzzle is actually made up of several layers of the same form as the dog’s saliva had loosened each one. Now dried, the one piece of the 1000 pieces that doggy had messed with, sat in wait.

Each evening as we trod upstairs for a little puzzle time together, it was a puzzle to us as to which piece it was that the dog had chewed. Every time we could not find a matching section, we realized the one that doggy had chewed might be the one we were looking for…until we found it. Then, suspicion arose all over again with each new space needing to be filled.

Get the picture? 999 times of doubt arose over one piece that had been chewed up and spit out.

Slumped over the puzzle table one evening, I boisterously mentioned how good it felt when you find just one piece. “It sort of makes you want to keep going,” I mentioned.


“Even if we only find ten pieces a night, who cares, we have time…there is no rush. It’ll be fun!”

“Do you realize that we will be here for months?” He proclaimed in manly wisdom.

And, he offered, “We should have started with a 500 piece puzzle.”

I began counting. Yes, I began counting each piece laid down that had already found a home upon the table.

“What are you doing?” He bluntly asked…looking puzzled.

Upon reaching 300, I answered. “Well, we only have about 700 to go and that’s almost a 500 piece puzzle… so let’s start from here. We’re almost there!”

He stared blankly…not in the least convinced.

Tonight we will again go up to the loft and work on the puzzle. I will find pieces and squeal with delight; he will stand beside me filling in the gaps simply because he committed to it. Sometimes, just showing up is enough to spur one another on.

Hebrews 10:24-25 confirms this line of thinking. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on…not giving up meeting together…but encouraging one another…and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug lives outside of Clear Brook, Minn., with her husband Pete and their six children. She can be reached by email at