There are few things in life I love more than being comfortable. In fact, I love being comfortable so much that I’m willing to sacrifice what may potentially be an incredible experience in order to stay with what I know. Because, well, what I know feels safe to me.
I frequent the same restaurants and order the same meal…the same way. I’ve kept the same hairstyle for the last 20 years and I still occasionally wear a pair of boots I bought in the 9th grade. I’ve had the same job for fourteen years, the same cell phone number for 19 and the same biological parents since I was born (ha! just making sure you were still reading). Few things can match that feeling of ease. Not too hot and not too cold. Not too little and not too much. No worries, no anxiety, and no fear.
Now let me say this loud for the people in the back like me who are already getting upset because I’m talking about change. There is absolutely nothing wrong with consistency in any of these areas. Consistency is comfortable. But being comfortable can be cancerous, too.
For me going to new places is often a stressor. I’ll starve before eating food I have no interest in trying and pass it off like I’m not super hungry. I can’t relax much in public because I have trust issues and feel like I always need to be on guard. When I’m not at work I have trouble meeting new people and keep a conversation with them going. And it doesn’t help that I can’t remember a person’s name for the life of me and I always make it worse by not asking them to repeat their name because honestly, I’m just going to forget it again.
All of these things take me out of my comfort zone and once I’m uncomfortable I start catching emotions: fear, frustration, anxiety, and nervousness. Then the emotions bring about physical responses: Sweaty palms, overwhelming desire for isolation, self-doubt, and prayers of a quick escape before I do or say anything stupid.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I finished reading the Old Testament and are now reading the four Gospels in chronological order. I’ve really enjoyed reading about miracles, parables and how Jesus and the Disciples lived their life. As I really dig deeper into the Gospels, I see two types of people who Jesus communicated with: The Comfortable and The Uncomfortable.
The book of Matthew tells us about a rich man who approached Jesus and asked him what good thing he must do to get eternal life (19:16-24) Jesus tells him to follow the Ten Commandments and to love his neighbor. The man acknowledges that he’s done these things but asks what he still lacks. Jesus tells him “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The next verse reads, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” This man was comfortable in his wealth and in following the law. Jesus’ call to him to sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Him quickly resulted in the man being able to identify the boundaries of his comfort zone. While we don’t know whether he followed what Jesus said, he went away sad because his comfort zone kept him from immediately doing what he was called to do.
The book of Mark speaks of a blind man named Bartimaeus (10:46-52) who was sitting by the roadside, begging. To set the scene a little bit for you…people like Bart were the societal throw-aways and really had no rights or equal opportunity. They didn’t work or “contribute toward society”, they were eyesores who were always asking for a handout or help from another person. Enter Jesus, His disciples, and a large crowd. Bart could hear something was going on and I’m sure had to of heard why there was such a commotion. Jesus was there! So, he starts shouting for Jesus but the crowd tells this misfit to shut up. But Bart got uncomfortable and rejected his fate and accepted his faith which led him to yell even louder for Jesus to have mercy on Him, against what the crowd said to do. He was solely concerned about Jesus. And you know what happened? Jesus stopped and Bart’s faith in Jesus gave him the ability to see.
The Bible was not written to be easy, safe or comfortable. We are called to love and share life with the people everyone else hates. The Bible repeatedly tells us to care for the widows, orphans and oppressed. Are you doing that? Are you consistently doing that? What about loving the left or right? Black or white? Pastor or prisoner? Poor or rich? Intelligent or ignorant? And what about everyone in between all of these things?
Probably like many of you my comfort zone has trapped me like that of the rich man. And it’s been detrimental to my Christian faith and the Kingdom itself. I could do far better going out into the world and loving other people as my God has called me to do.
And, as I’m processing all of this, I have to ask myself, could I find my new favorite food by trying something new? What if I went to new places to intentionally enjoy what God has created? What if I chose to meet one new person every week and set out to remember their name? What would my neighborhood, city, and world be like if I accepted discomfort to bring someone else comfort?
What would your world look like if you stepped out of your comfort zone? What if you were able to conquer your fear of public speaking and get on a stage to share your story? What if you forgave someone who hurt you in the past? How could you change someone’s life if you adopted or fostered a child?
The only way you’ll know is to get uncomfortable and watch God move.
By Ben Lippens (@godside)