Predictable + Simple

Sometimes I feel desperate for mathematical answers. 

I've never understood math - how there can only be one answer and one way to get there. I remember asking "why" so many times in my math courses and  always seemed to receive the frustrating response of "it's just what you do".  I was looking for the step by step rationale behind why I should plug these numbers in here and not there and never received a satisfying answer. Maybe my teacher didn't want to take the time to respond. Maybe she didn't have an answer. I'm convinced that's just how math is - no one knows why, it just is. Plain, to the point, predictable, and simple. 

For a long time I didn't understand why those answers weren't provided to me. 

A friend of mine is walking through a breaking marriage. 

Another friend, a miscarriage. 

Drug abuse in their family

The death of a spouse

Financial strain or lost jobs

Mental health 



And I'm sitting here trying to absorb it all and find myself wondering where the mathematical answers have gone. I'm tired of asking the why questions and would much rather settle for the calculated, plain, to the point, predictable, simple answers. Isn't that a heartbeat for some of us lately? We long for easy solutions to relational issues. We want our parenting to be easier and simpler. We want to know exactly how to navigate death, loss, pain, hurt, and all of the other complex emotions we have. If I were in a class on life situations and it was just about learning a series of inputs and formulas, I wouldn't ask any of my "why" questions. I'm worn out and content with the simple answers. 

But I'm beginning to believe that the complexity of our human experience is rich with opportunities to grow, expand ourselves, deepen our relationships, and in my case, deepen my understanding of faith. 
When I stopped trying to block my sadness and let it move me instead, it led me to a bridge with people on the other side... I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that. ***
Instead of offering simple answers or solutions to hurting friends, I make a choice to feel with them, and the same goes for how I respond to my own pain. Empathy doesn't involve staying on a ladder that leads down into the pain where someone is sitting. Instead, empathy requires us to climb all the way down and sit with them. To offer our presence; to be accessible.

It would be a shame if I spent my life obsessing over the math answers, instead of leaning into the beauty of deepening my capacity to care, feel,  and wade through questions with the people I love. Pain can harden us, but it can also soften us to one another if we let it. 


Sometimes I feel desperate for mathematical answers, but more often I feel privileged to engage with my own emotional stuff and to be accessible and present for all of the remarkable people around me. 

*** Barbara Brown Taylor's "Learning to Walk in the Dark"

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