Ask yourself the following questions:
· When was the last time I took on something new and challenging? (I mean really challenging, not just something you don’t like or something you have an aversion to.)
· Do I do things with people who are not my relatives?
· When was the last time I spoke with – or reached out to – someone who was unsaved?
· When I discover I disagree with a friend of mine, does that disagreement end our friendship?
· When it’s suggested that I need to leave someone behind in my life or maybe stop relying so much on family members, what is my response?
· What is the one thing that I insist I cannot – or will not – give up, even if God asks it of me?
The questions above reveal to us about our comfort zones – areas in our lives where we find ourselves complacent and at ease. Where is your comfort zone? Oh now, don’t sit there and shake your head, as if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Also, skip the part where you try to convince me you don’t have a comfort zone, and that you are above having them. Human nature demands we have a comfort zone; it’s a part of adaptability. In order to survive, we like to know what is coming next, and find ourselves gravitating toward those things which make us comfortable. In a comfort zone, we find an immediate sense of security: we feel a certain level of control, and have a certain level of faith in our ability to control our environment.
Human beings like the feeling they are in control. It’s not something we like to talk about or face, but it’s true. Sure, none of us like dealing with controlling people, nor do we like that sting of dominance we feel when someone comes along who just has to have things their way…but there’s a truth in that we equally dislike facing: we often create that very existence through our comfort zones.
How do we, as Christians – and especially as leaders – create comfort zones for ourselves? We all know that being Christian leaders means going beyond what’s comfortable, especially if we study the lives of those in the faith. We like to quote various passages and encourage people to “go into the unknown” and “go beyond limits,” but we forget that many of those limits we encourage people to go beyond, we ourselves don’t like to venture past them.
As God deals with me about comfort zones in my own ministry, I am realizing how terribly uncomfortable He can make a comfort zone for us if we stay in it too long. For many years, I have done certain things in the ministry as the main part of my work. A recent endeavor that was very much along these same traditional lines left me uncomfortable in more ways than one. Whereas prior I was more comfortable being a figurehead and standing on the sidelines looking in, I wasn’t comfortable with that this time. I felt like I wasn’t taking enough initiative and wasn’t involved in the work in the way I, as the apostle in the situation, needed to be. Were there reasons why the ceremonial role became such a focus? Sure. I was dealing with people that technically were not “my” people, I was dealing with decisions that were not just about me, but about others involved – and the decisions ran the risk of affecting others involved in a far larger way, and I was dealing with being in a ceremonial position that left me often questioning just what my role was in terms of decision-making in the situation.
As God has dealt with me, I came to realize the comfort zone just isn’t working anymore. For a long time, I’ve held to my own status quo. I tried to venture out, out of God’s timing, into other dimensions, and I never had very good success in so doing. I came to accept where I needed to be (even if I didn’t understand why), and I’ve maintained the positions I’ve been in. Now, God doesn’t desire for me to remain in that zone. God wants to take me to another level, and that level is, in some ways, unknown for me.
This experience makes me think about Abram’s command in Genesis 12:1-3: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your land, your relatives, and your father’s home. Go to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse. Through you every family on earth will be blessed.’” (GWT) We love to romanticize the experiences of Abram because we know the end result – we know the intense blessings he received and we receive as a result – but we don’t think about all the things that must have gone through his mind when God asked him to leave his entire comfort zone and go somewhere new. God didn’t tell him where he was going, only that his time there was up, and he needed to move on to the new territory. We focus on the obedience, which is relevant, powerful, and yes, desirable, but we never consider the process that went into that obedience.
I don’t question for a second that Abram had his doubts, thought twice about it, and wondered why in order to be blessed, he had to leave everything comfortable and familiar to find it. The reason is simple: in our comfort zones, we really don’t need to be blessed, because we are in control. We know what is coming, we know where we are going, and we know what to expect. Whether we like the circumstances we are in or not, we have a sense of control that limits us and our ability to experience and receive from God in new and different ways. The blessing of God doesn’t lie in our constant flocking to what we always know – it lies in the unknown, in those situations and circumstances that require us to rely upon Him, and only Him, and find Him in everything we see, do, and need. Blessing lies as we give up control – and surrender to God.
© 2013 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.