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It is maddening, really, the illogicality behind the common 1,000-piece puzzle. Some factory takes a large piece of cardboard, prints a perfectly fine picture on it and, at that point they have, well, a perfectly fine picture.

But then for some reason (evil capitalism, no doubt), they run it through a machine that chops that one perfectly fine picture into 1,000 tiny pieces. Then some unsuspecting soul buys it, not considering that it has already been "whole" once, and spends who knows how many hours making it whole once again.

It would be far more efficient not to chop it up in the first place.

This past week, my family and I took a very needed vacation/research trip for my next book. When we do this each year, we are accustomed to doing so along with my in-laws, thus resulting in a happy cacophony of seven people in a vehicle, then a condo.

We went this time to Fort Walton Beach, Fla. It was a really great time. We went to see Fort Pickens, where Geronimo was held. We took time to see the Air Force Armament Museum. We played on the beach; we visited the Indian Temple Mound, we went bowling (hilarious, that).

But one of our activities for the week was of a far more sinister nature: We, as a family, determined to assemble a 1,000-piece puzzle. The cardboard casserole in question was a shot of multiple hot air balloons hovering over and around a lake. That provided both for balloons and the reflections thereof to be assembled. One would think that such a task, with such vibrant stripes and colors, would be easy to identify and assemble.

One would be wrong.

With all of our combined mental acumen and visual acuity, we finally began to make some very serious progress. It took a while, mostly, I suppose, because I have boycotted puzzles for going on 30 years now. It is not the illogicality that led to my boycott, rather it is a trauma from my childhood.

There was another puzzle, another 1,000-piecer, this time of "Star Wars," specifically of the iconic light saber battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan-Kenobi. The entire puzzle was very dark except for the light sabers. After weeks of work, I was close enough to finish. And I would have, except for the fact that the 1,000-piece puzzle turned out to contain only 999 pieces.

What are the odds such a thing could happen again, three decades later? Apparently pretty high ... we couldn't find the last piece.

Mankind is a lot like that. The picture looks nice, but there always seems to be something missing. You see, we were made by our Creator and had a personal relationship with him. Then sin broke that relationship, and everyone ever born since then has been missing something. Jesus said in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me."

Jesus is the missing piece of the puzzle and, just like a puzzle, no other piece will work as a substitute. We can try morality or works or charity, but there will still be a hole; we will still be incomplete.

My puzzle story has a happy ending. Unlike 30 years ago, this time it was not some sadistic factory worker at fault. My youngest daughter found the piece on the floor the day before we were to leave.

If she had not, I would be looking for a sadistic puzzle factory worker.

Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., and the author of several books which are available at wordofhismouth.com. Contact him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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