Friday, January 27, 2017

My Hijacked Hypotenuse

“Sit in your circumstances.”

That’s what he said as I sat on the loveseat in my therapist’s office.

He might as well have thrown cold water in my face. He knew I tended to be a Type A, task-oriented kind of person. What he couldn’t have known was that I had recently bought a wall hanging with silver letters situated on a pale blue background that read, “Live life on purpose and with intention.” No wonder a favorite class of mine in college was Strategic Management.

Sit in my circumstances? 

You’ve got to be kidding.

Everyone knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And if you have spent any amount of time with me, you know I am always looking for that straight line. Be efficient. Be strategic. Be intentional.

Right triangles and I have something in common, there's a mutual love for finding the shortest path. It's called the hypotenuse.  

God bless the hypotenuse. It’s the path I would always choose to take. It’s the one I have encouraged lay leaders, pastors, mothers, home educators, and everyone in between, to take. The hypotenuse road is one of efficiency, of intention, of focus. It’s the one that makes sense.

Until it doesn’t.

The last 8 months, over and over again, I come back to this same disconcerting realization: Some things in life can’t be controlled or managed or time-tabled. No matter how hard I try, there are some things - like depression, like grief, like transitions - that lay beyond my ability to plan it, plot it, strategize it, choreograph it, or road-map it. Much to my dismay.

In some annoying twist of fate, there are some circumstances and seasons of life that require a round-about kind of path.  The shortest path (line ac in the diagram below) is inaccessible. The hypotenuse is marked “Road Closed” and we are forced to take the long way. (The long way being line ab and to line bc.)

These are the times when we don’t get to choose how long, how far, how much, or how difficult the journey will be. 

My first response to this unwelcome reality? 


Hence my therapist’s ever so wise instruction to park myself 


“sit in my circumstances.”

So, I’ve been trying. Trying to just relax a little, release the need to plan and know all things ahead. Trying to take each moment as it comes. And don’t think the irony of those last sentences is lost on me. It isn’t. There’s something hilariously dysfunctional about a Type A strategist “trying” to relax. It’s like saying I plan spontaneity. You can thus understand my struggle.

Peace has been elusive on a lot of days. I’ve beat my fists against the wall of control to no avail. I have resisted nearly every step I’ve taken on the journey, until I exhaust myself, and fall to my knees in surrender.

Sometimes the giving-up isn’t seen in a white flag, but in unseen tears. Sometimes surrender comes dressed in too many sleepless nights from a brain that won’t shut down. I haven’t rolled out the red carpet for the giving-in, because giving-in to the journey comes at a price I wouldn’t choose to pay on my own.

The hypotenuse has been hijacked, and I am forced to do what I am not wired to do sit in my circumstances and take the long, round-about, you-will-get-there-when-you-get-there path.

For the last 8 months, I have been learning to take each day as it comes. 

That has meant walking through a few months of depression when every day was a bad day. I would lay in bed and count it a win to get my feet on the floor. 
I weaned onto medicine painfully slow. With every increase, I suffered difficult side effects. I have come to terms with the truth that I did not choose depression and the fact that it being a part of my story does not reflect a lack of faith on my part. So I have discovered how to be kind to myself, and sit in my circumstances. 

For the last 8 months, I have been learning to take each day as it comes. 

That has meant giving grief permission to show up whenever it’s gonna show up. While my dad’s days were measured out on this earth is definitive measure, my grief is not. Grief is far from a scheduled journey, and doesn't make friends with logic or convenience. I can’t escape grief. I only choose my response to it. Losing my dad has been the most significant loss of my life, so I have owned every shred of it and refuse to patch it up with efficiency. So I welcome grief as an unpredictable visitor and sit in my circumstances.

For the last 8 months, I have been learning to take each day as it comes. 

That has meant making hard choices so my husband and I can honor the priorities of self-care, family cohesion, and authenticity. So we walked away from 18 years of service in one congregation. We lost position, relationship, identity, and certainty for the hope of gaining something greater. Transitions are hard, and even when you choose them they don’t always go as you desired or expect. They certainly tests one’s faith. In this current transition for our family, there are so many pieces over which I have zero control. I can wrestle and squirm and protest all I want, but it doesn't get me any closer to Peace. So, I loosen my grasp, fall on the mercy of God, and sit in my circumstances. 

For the last 8 months, I feel I have been walking a road littered with warning signs labeled:

And the truth is, sometimes, the only freakin' way we will take the long way is for the hypotenuse to be hijacked.

There is no shortcut for some things. No easy way out. No fast track. No insider tip. Just a sitting in the circumstances, whether you chose them or not.

----     ----     ----

Months later, while sitting with my therapist, I mentioned the parable of the lost son (Luke 15). After months of sitting with myself on the slow track to God knows where, I questioned for the first time whether I've read the intent of the lost son all wrong. I’ve always seen the younger son dishonoring and disrespectful, hearing his words laced with discontent, maybe with disdain dripping from his tongue. 

This season of my “HIjacked Hypotenuse” has given me a different perspective on some things. What if this journey, even though of his own volition, perhaps even begun in rebellion, was the very road that led the lost son to sit in his circumstances and be found? Maybe this round-about path through estranged family, short-lived wealth, fair weather friends, and pig slop was what could finally pave the way for the pivotal verse 17…“When he came to his senses.” Some translations say that this young man “came to himself.” It’s from a Greek word that means “to appear, to come into being, to be established, to become known.” What if this path, one I have judged and scorned in the past, was exactly the one needed to get the younger son right where the father had desired him to be all along - in loving relationship with him?

There’s something to be said about hypotenuse living, but some things just won’t travel that road. And I am beginning to realize that some parts of me would never come into being and be known if my hypotenuse road wasn’t hijacked.

I have made progress, much progress actually, over the last 8 months, but it’s not over - this sitting in my circumstances. I am still sitting. My hypotenuse road is still closed. I am not getting anywhere fast, and maybe that’s exactly the point. Maybe I am right where I need to be so I can get to where I need to be. Maybe getting nowhere fast is exactly the path that will get me there. 

If so, strategy must be put aside for trust. Intention must be traded for attention. The choreography of a well-laid plan is chucked for the experience of improvisation. And none of it has come naturally, but I am getting better at it.

I still fight for control, but I am learning to sit in my circumstances. And I believe, although some days my belief hangs by a thread, there will come a moment when I will awaken to myself. And when I have been graced enough to "come to myself", maybe I will find I am in a place I was always intended to be. 

But maybe, just maybe, it never would have come about without my hijacked hypotenuse road.

"We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, 
but God’s purpose prevails." 
- Proverbs 19:21 (MSG)

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