A jigsaw puzzle is a set of numerous interlocking pieces that are assembled together to produce a complete picture. Often they’re of nature, landscapes, or a recognizable piece of art.

Each piece of the puzzle is unique. When fit together, each piece contributes to the entire puzzle.

A jigsaw puzzle is also a good picture of the Body of Christ. Each of our strengths represents a unique piece of a puzzle. When our strengths are combined, we make a whole.

Most jigsaw puzzles are “fully interlocking,” which means pieces interconnect with the ones next to them.

The shapes of puzzle pieces differ greatly, though. Some pieces have straight edges to be used for the border. Some puzzles even feature “whimsy pieces” which are cut into specific recognizable shapes like flowers or animals. Many puzzle pieces are four-sided, with rounded tabs on two opposite ends and gaps on other sides to fit tabs of adjacent pieces.

But even puzzle pieces in this standard shape are DIFFERENT from one another. The size of the tabs and gaps on the ends may be larger or smaller. Or the distance between the tabs and gaps varies.

Regardless of puzzle piece shapes, when they have obvious differences it is easier to fit them together.

Did you catch that? Unique puzzle pieces fit together more easily.

Odd, unique, irregular, and offbeat pieces stand out. So do puzzle pieces with distinct colors and visual textures. It’s common to pull out pieces with a bit of red or yellow, for example, and put together those sections first. Or pluck out an unusually shaped piece and find its neighbors quickly.

Uniqueness in puzzle pieces is a STRENGTH.

Ironically, the most difficult jigsaw puzzles to complete are those with uniformly shaped pieces or those made of all one color. Sameness creates a problem. Similar pieces are harder to fit in.

Quite simply, the pieces are too much alike to distinguish from one another. It’s extremely hard to find the right place for pieces that are completely alike.

Differences are strengths. Both with jigsaw puzzles and in the Body of Christ.

We tend to value acceptance. Often we’re tempted to think that being different is a terrible thing. A person who is unconventional or who possesses unusual abilities may fear being ostracized.

And if we’re completely honest, that does happen. At work, at school, sometimes with friends and families. It even happens in church.

But God takes a different approach.

Just as unique pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are the key to allowing sections of a puzzle to come together, so it is with individual strengths. Your uniqueness makes you stand out and allows you to find your place in God’s story.

God has meticulously put this body together; He placed each part in the exact place to perform the exact function He wanted. You are the body of the Anointed, the Liberating King; each and every one of you is a vital member.

     1 Corinthians 12:18, 27 Voice

When you understand your strengths and find where you fit, others can connect and interconnect with you more easily. And that helps the whole puzzle come together.

Don’t think that your uniqueness isolates you. When you recognize your strengths and begin to lead from those strengths, you help others to do the same.

You are a one-of-a-kind puzzle piece. Your strengths make a special place for you. And your unique qualities allow others (with their own unique qualities) to fit in as well.

VeggieTales used to close their shows with this reminder, “God made you special, and he loves you very much!”

Today, recognize that and understand that God PLANNED your uniqueness. It wasn’t accidental.

Now think about one of your personal strengths, traits, or characteristics that you may view as odd, unusual, irregular, or offbeat.

Take a moment to consider how (not whether) the fact that God planned that for you is encouraging and comforting.

Then thank God for making you just as he made you.

That’s worship.

–Pastor Steve.