Thursday, July 3, 2014

Because It's Comfortable, That's Why! // On Leaving the Comfort Zone

So, I've really been enjoying this whole #beij (Blog Every Day in July) thing so far! All two days of it!  I've found the prompts pretty easy to write about, relatable, all that . . . until today.  Dun dun duuuuun.

I hit up the list of prompts to start writing and it was all like:

July 3rd: Update on Getting Uncomfortable in 2014 - What have you done out of your comfort zone this year?

And I was all like:

 NONONONO Did it HAVE to be about my ONE WEAKNESS?!?!  Well.  This may be difficult, but I'll push through.  Calm and collected.

See, the thing is that I really like being comfortable.  Like, reallllly, realllllllllllly like it. A lot.  In fact, a few friends and I did this great Bible study about obsessions this past year, and it showed me that I'm pretty obsessed with comfort.  #firstworldprobs.

Exhibit A: One time, I was working on a paper (during the winter, in our supercold basement. Just saying. )  and was, as a result, very cold and uncomfortable.  It eventually got to the point where I was simply too cold to continue, so I put down the paper and opted to rush-write it in study hall the next day, where things would hopefully be warmer.  No, my fingers were not too numb and frostbitten to type.  I was way too uncomfortable.

Exhibit B:  When I dread running a race in track (ahem, every race) I don't dread it because I think I'll do badly.  I dread it because of the fact that I'm going to have to exert myself and it's going to be really hard and uncomfortable.  I mean, I do really hate losing.  But it's mostly the whole running thing. 

Exhibit C:  Yesterday, my mom and I drove home from a business trip in Indiana together.  We stopped for Starbucks.  No complaint there.  About forty five minutes down the road from Starbucks, though, I had to pee so bad. You don't even know.  I literally could think of nothing else until we stopped.
I'm kind of a pro at the whole comfort zone thing.  This prompt is up my alley in the way that it is totally not up my alley.  I'm not on drugs.  Or playing mind games with you.  You know what I mean; that one thing that you're so bad at that you can talk for hours about how bad at it you are? Yep, this is my thing.  While I love my comfort zone to the point of it needing a restraining order for me,  that has helped me to learn a lot about why that's a bad thing.  Instead of talking about all the ways of I've stepped out of my comfort zone (Shortest Blog Post in the History of Ever, anyone?), let's just talk about what I know about the comfort zone and why it's not okay to just sit around in it all the time.

More Comfortable Isn't Always More Good

Take it from any professional athlete - heck, take it from me, the reluctant trackster who's scared to run because it's hard.  If you're comfortable at a 10-minute mile pace, and day after day you run 10-minute mile after 10-minute mile, that's all you're ever going to do.  As long as you run around inside your comfort zone, the boundaries of what you are able to do stay confined to that space.  The comfort zone is no longer a comfortable retreat; it's a trap.

Your faith life and mine function in exactly the same way.  I've spent more time in the comfort zone than I care admit: church on Sunday;  study the Bible with my Christian friends and gossip with everyone else Monday through Friday; pray when I feel like it or when I have extra time.  I've spent a lot of time creating my comfort zone, painting it the colors I like, equipped it with everything I need to avoid obstacles like heartache or conflict.  I really like it in there; the problem is that when I spend too much time sitting on the couch within those walls, sedated by how dang comfortable everything is, life gets meaningless pretty quickly and the clock ticks slowly.

Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Fortunately for me, God has designed us to want more than a life of ease.  He's the one who makes a racket outside of the walls that I build for myself and makes me second guess the wisdom of holing up in there in the first place.  Better yet, when I start knocking on the wall in an attempt to break my way through, he uses some kind holy sledgehammer to bust me out of there.  Well, maybe more like a holy saw.  He helps me out, but He allows me to feel the discomfort of stretching my own boundaries, too, because He knows that's what helps me grow.

Getting out of comfort zones is, logically, uncomfortable.  That's just the way it has to be.  However, it's super fulfilling, because we're not created for mediocrity, for sitting and doing nothing, for couch potatohood! (Feel free to start using potatohood in your every day life as much as possible).  As I went through that Bible study (remember, the one about obsessions?)  my goal was to start to enjoy being uncomfortable.  Paul apparently had the same idea - here's what he said:

 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
Philippians 3:10-11 MSG

If you skimmed that, shame on you, you heathen.  Read it again, especially the part where Paul says he wanted to be "a partner in [Jesus's] suffering."  Jesus's suffering included not just the whole horrific death on the cross thing, but rejection through most of his ministry by the religious in crowd,  rough living conditions, and betrayal by some of his closest friends.  Paul was way ahead of me in the comfort zone denial game - I doubt he even had one!  He wanted, as in, voluntarily desired, to go through what Jesus went through so he could be a part of him. 

But That's Really Hard

Um, yeah.  And that's really an understatement.  Let's go back to our athlete analogy.  
At the beginning of his training, he's all excited.  Let's say he's a football player in highschool, looking for a break into a top college team.  For a month or so, he diligently works out on his own.  He runs sprints for miles, he lifts weights, he eats right.  Eventually, though, he starts to burn out.  He knows he's burning out, and desperately searches for ways to keep him on track.  

Our future NFL star has two options, and so do we.  The athlete may first try to recall his goal - he'll tape up posters of his dream team and talk about his future plans.  That was Paul's strategy later in Philippians 3:

I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
Philippians 3:14

This one is important.  When we're stranded somewhere that is very, very, not remotely like our comfort zones, remembering what we're working towards can be the only thing that keeps us from running right back to where we've come from.  

The athlete spends another month or so staring at posters of his heros, singing his future fight song, and watching the best of the best on T.V.  He keeps practicing, but his workouts lose their intensity.  He's at a loss for how to get better.  

That boy needs a coach.  

And so do we! Ya see where I'm going with this?  No top athlete doesn't have a coach. No bottom athlete doesn't have a coach.  Anyone, ever, who wants to follow Jesus and leave their super comfy personal space needs a coach - that'd be Jesus.  He's a combination of all of the best coaching traits you could ever want.  He's enthusiastic - hello, He died just to get the chance to coach us.  As the ultimate comfort zone leaver, He has years of quality experience.  He knows his players inside and out and has the ultimate insider information on our opponent.  

I guess you could call my obsession with my comfort zone quite unreasonable, all things considered.   That's how awesome our God is! So, go, be uncomfortable!

Blogging every day in July with Juliette, Faith, and Allie!


How about you? Have you done anything outside your comfort zone this year?

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