I do find it so intimidating when there are several messages in my head at once, and God demands, “Write!” without first telling me which parts go with what. I trust He will provide the sorting as I work out the message here. And perhaps that is indeed the beginning of this particular message about comfort zones. That’s an area that has arisen over, and over, and over again these last few months, and years actually. Step out of your comfort zone. But, what happens when you’ve stepped so far out of your comfort zone that you’re not quite sure where it is anymore?
A friend and I chatted a little about being out of our comfort zones the other day. I made the comment, “I think I forget to pack it when I moved.” In truth, I find myself operating fully outside anything remotely comfortable these days. We have gone from multiple children, and the somewhat dilapidated house we lived in for 11 years to one child left at home and a beautiful house that still makes us feel like interlopers now and then. We left our old church a year before we moved, then left the church we were finally settling into. We left our friends. I left the seniors’ Bible Study I led for five years, and the pregnancy center I served for a year. God loosened the soil of our lives two years ago in preparation, and then He tore us up by the roots I never thought I’d grow.
Part of that preparation involved the Lord moving us out of the church we belonged to eight for years. Looking back, I see the necessity for that transition. Without that break I am not sure my heart would accept the gift of this move when the time came. But, the cost of that break for me was cutting loose from the moorings of purpose God spent those eight years building in my life. I spent time growing comfortable speaking in front of the congregation, leading Bible study, even singing in the band. I invested time in taking all the courses I could find on being a leader in the church. I studied everything from lay servant and lay speaking to ministry development. I bound my life to serving where He called me in the church where He planted me. And I was happy in that service.
When the Lord firmly closed that door, I felt set adrift. I spent my time floating from one thing to the next, never quite sure what God wanted from me. I worked from home, so there was no steady influence on my life from my job. My oldest kids already moved away. The next two were in the process of finishing high school and getting ready to move.
The separation from our mutual church strained the relationship with my best friend. That strain eventually led to the loss of my Bible study group at that church, and the loss of my weekly time spent with her. I kept on with the Bible Study I led outside my church at the assisted living home. But, otherwise, everything I spent years building with God fell away. My comfort zone, my church where I ran barefoot dancing and singing with joy as I worked for my Father, became a place of mourning and heartache for me.
God blessed us in that last year in Jasper to find a refuge at Mountain City Church. The people there were patient with my undirected need. They graciously made space for me to seek God with them, as they did with everyone who came in weary and smarting a little. I found a quiet joy there in that space, but so often chafed at the imposed stillness. There was no inkling at the time a major move was coming. I only knew I needed to MOVE instead of sitting still, not working for God.
Now, hear me, this is not a question of the whole faith versus works theology. Simply, my gifts are aligned with serving those who serve the Lord. I most fully feel my deepest joy in serving the Lord and helping believers grow. Without that work I feel empty, lonely, bereft of a precious gift. It’s like an athlete having two broken legs. It’s not just the broken places that hurt, it’s the loss of doing the thing they love while they wait for healing to come.
In that restlessness, I did the thing I learned to do in the beginning of running with God. I stepped out of my comfort zone in the effort to re-establish my comfort zone. When I sought to serve the church, my Pastor asked me to feel for the life of the church first. Go to City Group, go to DNA Group. So, I went.
I, who find socializing for the sake of socializing difficult at best, dove into groups that met for the sole purpose of eating a meal together and talking about our lives, so we could share how God was moving and pray for each others needs. I, who find it hard to get to know women, and uncomfortable to be in small groups I don’t know, began the women’s DNA group that very week. And, from well-learned lessons, that first night, when Clare asked us to share something raw and honest, I opened my heart and spilled out some of my worst sins. So I could spill out some of God’s most amazing grace. And it worked, slowly but surely, doing the uncomfortable things God taught me to be comfortable with restored a sense of foundation, a sense of belonging, a sense of a new comfort zone forming.
Fast forward a year, I started putting down roots again. I came to love the time I spent with the ladies at our church. I adored the blessing of serving as a counselor for young women facing pregnancy in often difficult circumstances. It humbled and honored me to speak Christ’s grace in the midst of sin and shame.
After heart surgery, my husband was finally physically healthier than he had been since our son was two years old. We were looking at possible jobs, keeping an eye out for houses with an eye toward eventually moving now that the kids were moving out and we didn’t need so much space. I was still restless, but making plans for the future. And opportunity struck, moving became a reality, but there was a catch. We wouldn’t move up the street. The Lord started a siren song in my heart drawing me home, to the family I wandered from so long ago.
In the span of four months, after 11 years in our home and 24 years in the state of Georgia, the longest I have ever lived anywhere in my wanderer’s life, we found a house, packed our stuff, and said our goodbyes. I left my two middle boys behind to start their lives on their own. I left my Bible Study. I left my friends, new and old. I left my church, and all the groups of people I’d come to love there. I again left the work the Lord gave me to do, this time with the youth, in the nursery, and at the pregnancy center. This time God blessed us with a church that takes time to celebrate God’s sending, even as we mourn our separations. It was with the blessing of those who provided us refuge that we set out on the next adventure.
Which I suppose brings me to now. There are so many things in those eight years at BGUMC I am grateful for. Today, there is nothing I appreciate more than God building the habit of doing the things that make me uncomfortable. He created a need in me to serve, and a variety of skills and knowledge to make me useful.
The Lord gave me the boldness to step up to people I do not know and offer those skills for the benefit of the body. Christ instills in me the compulsion to plug into small groups, even when that makes me squirmy. He grew in me the understanding of the need to be open and honest and willing to speak what He tells me in those spaces where He sends me. More, at MCC, He instilled the patience to wait on His direction, even when I want to run. He taught me to say yes to the seemingly random, small things that put me where He needed me when He needed me there.
I suppose the message He put in my heart to share today after looking at all of that is this. We’re Christians. As such, we are made to be sent. He equipped us to go and tell. He calls as ambassadors of heaven. We are sojourners and strangers in a land not our own. We’ll never really be comfortable, and that’s okay, we’re not supposed to be. He designed us so our roots can be torn out of the world, and we’ll be okay because we are rooted in the vine of life. We are created to be cast adrift, because we carry in us the one who walks on water, and commands the waves to still. We don’t really need a comfort zone, because we are indwelled by the one Christ promised, the one He called our Comforter.
I pray Holy Spirit breaths His fire in you today. Let Him uproot you from all the worldly things that bind you from His will. I pray He sets you adrift from all the anchors that hold you bound. Let your eyes be open to the torrent of the Spirit rolling over and through you. May He make you uncomfortable enough to leave your comfort zone unpacked behind you. And I pray you find your comfort in the One who calls you onward, out into the deep, where signs and wonders dwell.
Be blessed and be a blessing.Tags: ambassadors for Christ, anxiety, called, change, Christ, Church, comfort, comfort zone, Comforter, discipleship, God, God Talk, God Talk: Nazareth, growth, Holy Spirit, moving, pain, uncertainty, unknown
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