When our circumstances are not what we’d like them to be, it is natural to fight against them. There are many ways we do this. Depending on the situation, we might try to deny, control, change or escape what we perceive as unpleasant.
I know, because I’ve tried all those options. I’ve also tried the opposite approach. Recognizing the futility of resistance, I’ve gone down the road of passive surrender. That might seem the better option, but it comes with its own risk. If we are just sitting there waiting for different circumstances to appear, we are no better off.
Trying to actively alter or escape our circumstances, or passively waiting for them to change on their own, are common responses to the challenges life brings. They are common, but that doesn’t mean they yield the best results. Fortunately, there is another way.
After spending half a lifetime either fighting against my circumstances, or surrendering to them in utter passivity, I have awakened to a new approach. It is called . . . leaning into what is now. It is the art of embracing your circumstances.
Before we get too far down that road, though, I want to define circumstances. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with a dictionary definition this time. In fact, I’m not even going to look it up. This is my blog, which means I can define it however I want!
Circumstances are simply this: the current snapshot of reality.
In the past, whenever I didn’t like what I saw in the snapshot, I wanted to fix it. Expending huge amounts of energy researching and obsessing over implementing the perfect solutions, I kept trying to create the ideal circumstances for a happy and fulfilling life. When my efforts failed, I coped as best I could while waiting for my real life to begin.
It took a while, but I finally realized this was and is my real life! I also realized maybe different circumstances can’t or won’t appear until I’ve leaned into and learned and gleaned everything I can in my now. So I tried something new.
Instead of wanting myself and everyone and everything around me to be fixed before I moved forward, I stopped waiting. I learned how to move forward with the reality I have, instead of fighting against my reality or waiting for a different reality.
Leaning into what is now is about looking at the current snapshot of reality and embracing every aspect of it—the pleasant and unpleasant, the joys and sorrows, the possibilities and risks—with no judgement. It’s about seeing with the eyes of a student, not the eyes of a perfectionist control freak.
Ultimately, it’s about letting go, while at the same time holding fast to the truth that our present circumstances may be the very thing God is using to get us where we need to go. If that is true, resisting will only make our journey longer. And we’ll likely end up with a lot more bumps and bruises, not to mention frustration.
The art of embracing your circumstances truly is an art. Your life is the canvas and God is the painter. You submit to being painted by leaning into what is now. When you do, all the snapshots of reality taken along the way are blended together into a masterpiece far surpassing anything you could have painted on your own.
And you look up in wonder, in awe, and in gratitude to the Master Artist and Creator of it all.
See also Embrace Reality Instead of Frustration.