Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

It was high school. My friend had asked me to come to a mock coed dinner party. I wasn't going to know anyone there except for her. I didn't particularly want to go, but thought to myself that maybe it'd be fun. So I went. I was so uncomfortable. I sat there, not knowing anyone, quietly trying to participate, laughing at all the moments I thought I needed to, and feeling extremely awkward.

That is when the loudest most outgoing girl turned to me abruptly and said, "Why aren't you talking?" Everyone was quiet, their eyes boring holes into me. My face flushed red. At that moment all I wanted to do was melt into a puddle, drip down the legs of the chair and into the cracks of the wooden floor. I hadn't wanted to come to this party in the first place... After a couple moments of silence and everyone staring at me they went back to the more interesting business of talking amongst themselves.

I felt so stupid.

When you're young being in uncomfortable situations isn't abnormal. Whether it's a new sport, new school, a performance, or a camp you haven't been to before - change is rather constant. Adaptability is a matter-of-course as a young person. As an adult? Not so much. I suppose for some adults change is rather constant. There are some jobs that require a lot of switch hitting. Going out for an interview and being able to sell yourself for a job that you're not necessarily qualified for, well you have to be malleable in that sort of situation too. But really, in your personal life once you've settled down those uncomfortable situations don't have to happen as much, and therefore often don't. People like to settle in.

I know I do. I like my comfort zone.

Being an initially shy person who usually prefers a one on one situation - parties, groups, and stages aren't really my thing. In fact, starting any new group is always a bit intimidating. A new Bible Study, a new mom's group, a big loud party. That fight or flight instinct gets pretty real sometimes and my desire to fly away never to return, (stay at home) is hard to resist.

Two Sundays ago my husband and I went to church with his dad, stepmom, and Grandma who were up visiting. We all sat down in the service together after dropping off the three older kids to their Sunday School classes. I'd opted to keep Lyriel with me as it was her Birthday and I didn't want to miss a moment of it.

Towards the middle of the service Lyriel started to get a little fussy, so I took her out of the gym (where the service is held) so I could walk around with her easily and feed her little bits of donut (ahem)... I went over to where the speaker sits so that I could hear what was going on in the service.

Our pastor was talking to another member of the congregation. When he was finished he announced that there was going to be an open mic moment, posing the question, "What have you learned about Jesus lately?" I stood there thinking. My mother in law went up and talked about her struggles with recovering from her hip replacement surgery the previous year and how present God had been. Another girl got up and shared what she had been learning about Jesus during medical school.

My heart started to beat loudly in my head as I started walking to the double doors that led into the service.

I walked straight up to the microphone without slowing down. If I was going to say anything I needed to do it quickly without hesitation. I'm not one for public speaking - or anything in front of people, really.

I reached the mic and blurted out, "I'm really nervous. I don't like talking in front of people, so bear with me.... I'm a comfort zone person. And this, this isn't in my comfort zone."

I went on to say that that's just it. Lately I've been realizing that where I'm comfortable isn't where I'm necessarily supposed to be. Being comfortable, while it's nice and cozy and pleasant isn't what Jesus wants for me. He doesn't want me to be complacent.

Oddly enough, situations keep popping up that cause me to feel very uncomfortable. In the back of my head there is this voice yelling "STAY IN THE COMFORT ZONE!" And yet, I'm finding that more and more I'm ignoring the voice and doing what makes me feel awkward, exposed, and often vulnerable. Even more odd is that when I eventually step out on the limb, it's never as bad as I think it's going to be.

Being brave doesn't mean you're not afraid. If I were to take a wild guess, I would say that most soldiers going into battle are not in their comfort zone and are very scared. Being brave is a mind over matter deal. You can't be brave if you stay where you're comfortable. I know that doing things out of my comfort zone will produce something that I'm not going to get if I stay where I'm at rest.

 (picture of Warrick by my friend Aileen)

If I could go back in time to that moment after the dinner party when I felt so embarrassed and ashamed I would tell myself I was proud. Proud that I went to something that was intimidating - proud that I opted to do something that was intimidating and uncomfortable.

It might be frightening, but if we could all live our lives in a way that is a little less about our own personal comfort, and more about helping, serving, loving, and working hard for the sake of others? Well, the results could be immeasurable.

Maybe it's time to do something out of your comfort zone? For me? I think it's time to really start living.

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." -Neale Donald Walsch

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