Every night before bed, I read at least one book to my boys. Not long ago Ethan picked The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein, and it is now one of his favorite books. (I knew that kid was a chip off the old chunk.)
I love Shel Silverstein books. So simple, yet so complex. So intricately clever in the delivery of consequential lessons through a kid-friendly lens. I often find myself as enamored with the books we read each night as my boys. Reading children’s books through adult eyes opens a whole new world of perspective and meaning.
The first night we read The Missing Piece, I almost cried.
The book begins:
“It was missing a piece. And it was not happy. So it set off in search of its missing piece.”
Each time we read this book, new layers emerge for me, so it’s hard to capture the profundity of its message without having you sit in my lap each night like my sons as we read it together. I’ll spare you the Reading Rainbow moment and instead suggest you read the book if you haven’t already.
What strikes me again and again about this “incomplete circle” in search of its missing piece is that no matter what, the circle isn’t fully satisfied. Even when it finally finds the perfect piece-the piece that understands it can both be its own piece and belong to the circle-there are things the circle can no longer do. Even when his empty space was perfectly filled, it shifted the other things he enjoyed before which in turn leaves him feeling unhappy again.
In the end, the circle unloads the perfect piece and continues on singing the same song he sang in the beginning, searching for his missing piece.
The first time we read it, after I gathered my tears through the middle of the book, when we got to the end, I was frustrated.
“Are you kidding me circle!?!?!?! You searched and searched and you finally found the perfect piece. The piece that allowed you to be you while it stayed it. The piece that fit your open space perfectly. It wasn’t too big. It wasn’t too small. It didn’t poke you. You didn’t have to squeeze it too tight to hold onto it. It just fit. You found what was missing! You found your missing piece!!!! And then just like that, you spit it out and pretend you haven’t found your missing piece yet?? Still searching??? WHY!??
It struck me that this incomplete circle lives inside each one of us. In some capacity, we are all constantly in search of our missing piece. Never satisfied. Always looking for something to fill our empty spaces. And always viewing ourselves as incomplete until we find it; yet still somehow dissatisfied when we do.
I spent a lot of my life feeling incomplete. I filled that space with different things over the years and found that as long as it was me filling that space, I would always come up empty.
Depending on the day we read this book, I have a different take away from it. But one constant message in a book like this one is that no earthly thing can ever fill our empty spaces. We will search forever if we keep our eyes fixed down here. Even when we find exactly what we have always been looking for, we will not be happy.
We cannot find satisfaction or total fulfillment in another thing. It just isn’t the way we were created.
Our problem is that we try to fill a God-shaped missing piece with things we can reach on our own. We search and we grasp. We stuff and we pile. We give whole pieces of ourselves to other things that even when they seem to fit perfectly into that space, can never satisfy the need. And so we stay empty. We keep searching.
What I have learned is that when I stop roving the ground and face my eyes upward, I find fulfillment. When I allow God to fill my empty places, I can be whole even when I’m broken. I can find joy even when pieces of me are missing.
God gives us people to help and love us through this life. And sometimes life happens, and we lose them.
God gives us things we enjoy to brighten our spirits. And sometimes those things don’t work the way we hoped they would.
God gives us stuff to make life more comfortable. And sometimes life happens, and we lose them.
God gives us passions to pursue and missions to accomplish while we are here on this earth. And sometimes those things don’t work the way we hoped they would either.
Life is messy. People are unreliable. Things break. Plans fall through. Stuff happens.
As long as we are waiting to find our “missing piece” in anything or anyone down here, we will always feel incomplete and unfulfilled. Even when God gives us all the desires of our heart, we will spit a piece back out and continue searching because we will have failed to look up, and we will therefore still feel lost.
In many ways, I feel like God has finally given me the biggest piece I have always searched for. I have found my missing piece. I am more whole and more complete than I have ever been, and I am humbled and overflowing with gratitude because of it.
Yet, I am still on this journey too.
I don’t want to be like the circle in this book. I don’t want to gain all the missing pieces I’ve searched for only to spit them out because I still feel incomplete. I don’t want to forget that it is God who fills me and it is God who makes me whole.
I can’t make myself whole. Another person does not complete me. And my missing piece -the ominous feeling that exists within us all no matter how complete and fulfilled we may be in worldy things – does not exist down here.
I continue to learn that it is only when I trust God with all the pieces of my life that I know I am complete. It is only when I allow Him to fill me that I fully trust I am missing nothing.
Whatever piece you feel you are missing at this point in your journey, allow God to fill that space. He is the only one that can. Afterall, He IS the missing piece. When you find Him, everything else falls into place.
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