Although this past year has been jam-packed with a little bit of everything for me, the overall theme for 2017 was getting out of my comfort zone.
Whether I was traveling by myself internationally, opening up my heart and home to a younger generation, doing things without depending on others’ involvement or lack thereof, or accepting a new position at work, I took quite a few big leaps out of my borders and broadened my horizons in the past 12 months.
I’m not telling you it was all easy in the moment, nor was it all planned and anticipated. But I can definitely say now it was all worthwhile.
Some time ago a minister presented a visual on this topic that I won’t ever forget.
He drew a large circle on a whiteboard, then made a dot a few inches outside of it. “This is your life,” he said, pointing at the inner circle. “And this is where God wants you,” he pointed to the small dot. “Once you finally get there, and just start feeling comfortable there, He’ll draw another circle and place another dot outside of it and set whatever actions in motion in your life to get you to that next dot, and so on.”
|Myvatn Lava Fields, Iceland|
God has every intention of adding to our foundation in order to build up our character, even if that means occasionally hammering it down or scraping away our extra layers.
His process often causes us to feel uncomfortable, without a sure ground beneath our feet or a tether to hold onto. His procedures can be painful or make us feel directionless for a time.
But any time in bible history an individual got out of their comfort zone, it proved to be the pivotal point in their life.
Like Moses when he ran from Egypt and hid in the desert for years learning how to be a shepherd of sheep in order to be a shepherd of his people; or David, when he killed both a bear and lion so that he could use that same faith and skill to oppose Goliath later on; but my favorite is Esther when she chose to face a probable death by stepping before her king uninvited to stand in the gap for her people.
Sometimes, the Lord wants us to get swept away from the shallow end so we learn to swim in deeper waters. Sometimes, He pulls out the soft feathers of our nest in order to force us to use our wings.
You know what they say, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
It is important to note that getting out of our comfort zone generally means doing something we have meager confidence or hardly any knowledge or experience in.
For example, a naturally-skilled musician isn’t necessarily getting out of his comfort zone by learning more chords or songs. He would just be improving or perfecting what he already does.
Whereas someone who has a fear of public speaking would be completely out of her comfort zone if her boss setup an event or meeting for her to lead.
So the way I see it, this all happens in two ways: Either you push yourself, or life will push you anyway, and usually it isn’t as fun or as nice about it.
Of course, our days, weeks, and years are usually a combination of both. There are some changes or new experiences that seem more attractive and “safe” to us than others.
We all tend to have certain types of friends or personalities we gravitate toward or stick with; we all have favorite food dishes; we each prefer to go with what we know rather than what we don’t; there are some activities that look epic (because we saw it on some cool fellow millennial’s Instagram feed) so of course we’d try those.
I’ll be the first to tell you there is nothing wrong with any of that–having preferences and favorites and tendencies are all part of who we are.
But if we only limit ourselves to these tried and true, acceptable activities, social situations, and comfortable conversations, how can we ever expect to not only make a difference in ourselves, but in the lives of others around us?
There are a lot of things we don’t know about ourselves until we get placed in a completely unique environment.
We may know who we are within our comfort zones of hometown, career choice, hobbies, friend groups, or church. However, there’s still untapped potential and unknowns in our personalities that take special, specific factors to bring them to light and show us also who we can or even should be.
I’m fairly indifferent to change, it doesn’t bother me too much–in fact, there are times I actually love it.
But regardless if you enjoy it or not, change, and the adjustment to it, can still be exhausting. Yet it’s really the only way for an individual to grow.
I’m speaking from experience for this year of my life especially.
There were times I had the choice between keeping to myself or extending an inviting smile or friendly word. When I put my phone or earbuds aside and chose the latter, it’s almost as if actual walls came down somewhere inside of me.
Then there were serious discussions I couldn’t avoid, phone calls I had to make, words of counsel I was requested to give–ones that were hard and personal and made me feel vulnerable. But I learned a lot about myself in those awkward lines and phrases, too.
There were moments I consciously chose to talk to people I barely knew, to really listen to them and figure them out and allow them to share a new thought or perspective with me, instead of rolling with the people I’m already close to and know how to be when I’m around them.
There was a time or two I chose to do something not because it was convenient for me but because it was for the benefit of everyone else, because I’m realizing slowly that’s what leadership, and adulthood, is all about.
I’ve seen so many quotes like “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” While I get the point, I don’t completely agree.
Life is happening all around us, all of the time, whether we are comfortable with it or not. You don’t have to become an extreme athlete or give up your job and live off pennies to have a meaningful life.
Joy can be found in our mundane duties, and, like flowers, change and growth can and will occur without drastic measures.
I only hope that whatever your comfort zone is, I can encourage you to stretch its borders a bit (or a lot) further than you ever have in prior years, and get bold enough to face some of your fears.
You can be young or old, you can make only small changes or big decisions–it all counts.
You might be surprised what will happen. Maybe you’ll find a new friend from an unexpected source or circumstance. Perhaps you’ll discover a talent or an interest you never knew you had.
You’ll never know until you try; you’ll never get an answer unless you ask.
Break out of your routines once in a while, try something new, reach out to people even if it’s difficult or awkward or it seems like they have baggage; take on a challenge or two.
Do something that improves your view on life, re-enhances your self-esteem, enlarges your way of thinking, gives you a greater understanding and purpose in your spiritual walk with Christ, and overall brings glory to God through the various fruits that start to bud forth.
2017 was a year of growth for me, like every year is, and I’m going to make sure 2018 won’t be any different.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)
|my best friend overlooking Horseshoe Bend, Arizona|