Piece by piece

Silent Valley, Down
Silent Valley, Down

Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

My granddaughter, Abbie, recently celebrated her sixth birthday and her aunt decided to give her a 1,000-piece jigsaw.

The rest of the family doubted the wisdom of giving a young child such a large jigsaw. However, Abbie accepted the challenge of building the puzzle. There were days she was able to put together many pieces, some days only one or two, and others none at all.

There were times when she looked as if she might give up, but after eight weeks, she completed the puzzle - except for one missing piece. We all set about searching for it and eventually it was found under the piano. She had completed the puzzle by concentrating on just one piece at a time.

I often walk the beautiful nature trails at the Silent Valley Reservoir and I like to include several small, but steep, hills. When climbing them I usually get out of breath! If I look at the top of the hill I lose heart and feel like giving up, so I just look a few metres ahead, enough to make sure that I don’t lose my footing. Then, little by little, I reach my goal.

Both stories remind me of difficulties on the farm and circumstances in life which, if considered all at once, may become overwhelming. Sometimes we just need to concentrate on what we need to do today. I have to confess that I struggle with putting my strategy for climbing hills into practice for daily living and find it difficult to live in the present moment. I want everything done quickly and to know all the answers before I need to. I forget to stop and take in all the many good things we have in life and tend to concentrate on the difficulties.

In Isaiah 40:29-31 we read: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.” Most people have times when they feel weak and weary, but we are told in these verses that our strength comes from the Lord.

Additionally, Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” God’s omnipotence means that He alone has all knowledge and understanding. Where we are weak, He is strong, and when we are confused, He becomes our peace. Humbly accepting our boundaries and limitations gives the deserved acknowledgement and trust to God’s providence.

Back to the jigsaw and the missing piece! As we watched Abbie joyfully insert the last piece into the puzzle, we were all reminded of Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep as told in Luke 15:5-6: “…when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” Why should we hand over our will and submit to God? The answer is found in the revelation of Jesus who came to bless and love the whole world, inviting each lost sheep back into the fold.

Charlotte Stevenson farms with her husband, Jim, and son, James, near Kilkeel and is a member of Mourne Presbyterian Church. Last Christmas Charlotte retired, having worked at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Assembly Buildings in Belfast for a number of years.

If you would like to talk to someone about this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.