Leaning into difficult

Leaning in to our pain and discomfort.

Now what exactly do you mean by that?

Just as we might lean into a strong wind to keep from being pushed over by it, or lean into pushing or pulling something that is hard to move, so when life gives us those things that are difficult, that push strong against us, and are hard to move – lean into them.

Our natural instinct is to turn from difficulties, maybe we run, maybe we just don’t want to face it, maybe we are afraid, or it is painful. Whatever the reason for turning our backs, when faced with something hard, so often we just look the other way.

Over the last several months I have heard several times the phrase “lean into it”. Whatever the hard thing is, the thing you might fear; face it, embrace it, push toward it. I don’t think the idea is so much that we truly desire more of the difficulty, but that we are not running and hiding from the difficulty.

Recently, I was faced with a day that I definitely wanted to hide from. Physically, I felt yuck; emotionally, I was finding a particular relationship difficult to interact in; mentally, I was overwhelmed – well, you can see it was the kind of day filled with moments I just wanted to run and hide. As I worked on preparing breakfast, the urges to fear and fret were creeping their way into my thinking, then the phrase “lean into your pain” surfaced amidst the turmoil. Lean into it, huh?

Not sure what that looked like in real life. So, I paused, breathed a moment, prayed a moment, and literally leaned into the counter. Mentally I embraced the frustration and irritation and exhaustion. Whatever purpose there was for me facing these challenges at this moment, I wanted to be a part of it. My faith in God touches everything in my life. Just as your faith, whatever it maybe, touches every part of your life. I have a God who loves me, wants what is good for me, and is moving to bring His work in my life. I can trust Him. He will sustain me. So rather than hiding from the challenges of the day, I turned to them, reached for them and embraced them.

courtesy of
photo courtesy of

Amazingly, they shrunk. Rather, than ignoring them, hoping they would leave, pushing them down as if they did not exist, and trying to ignore their screams for attention; I faced them head on, reach for them, and took hold of them for whatever they were doing in my life. I would be lying, if I said it was easy. It was terrifying! Facing something you were rather hide from is never easy. It was just a moment of time, not some big event of the day. Yet, as I moved on with the activities and to do’s I had before me, the emotional and physical difficulties did not seem to weigh me down as they had been.

Don’t misuderstand me, the difficulties were still there . . . they just were not the focus anymore. Looking them in the eye had made them seem not as daunting.

How do you handle the difficult things in your life? Do you ignore them, run from them, hide? Have you ever stood and faced them, claiming them as yours with the terrifying fear and all? How did it change things for you? I would love to hear your story.
Just a note: I wrote this post a couple of months ago and tucked it away for the day I might need it. Having written lot in the last several days, and facing several deadlines in different areas of life, I thought this week might be a good time to dust it off. Even as I reread it in preparation for posting, I saw how the principle of facing the difficult thing, claiming it, and pressing on was played out in a way I had not expected. This space of learning, sharing, and community growing is so new, and I have kept it hidden in a way from so many who know me in real life. Yet, early last month I agreed to be part of a book launch (one of my one year goals!) and though exciting, the experience has been terrifying! If I were to do this “correctly” I would need to let people know, people I see regularly, about this area of my life. Well, here goes . . . terrified, and unsure, yet confident that this is what I am to do.  Check out the #SurprisedByMotherhood launch post, and join me as I lean into this difficult, yet exciting event.

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