As I was driving back to Massachusetts after two weeks in Virginia (for a quick trip to be present for a friend being ordained a priest!) I inevitably spent some time reflecting on those first two weeks working at Trinity House Café and living in Virginia. The theme that came to mind was this… GET UNCOMFORTABLE.
This theme has only intensified since that trip.
Recently I’ve done quite a few things that I knew would make me uncomfortable: namely leaving my job of 5 years, doing a Tough Mudder, moving to Virginia, and starting a new job I have no experience in. Those were things that I knew were bound to cause discomfort simply because of the dramatic nature they held. What I didn’t expect were some of the basic things that caused me to get uncomfortable over these last five weeks. Things like…
- Having to drive at least 15 minutes to get to church, a grocery store, or really anything
- The setup of my bedroom being different and affecting my morning and night routines
- The physical and mental fatigue from being on my feet and interacting with people all day (shout-out to my naturally inclined introverts!)
- The flipped script of high school and college students teaching me now ?
Don’t get me wrong- I’ve been blessed with a very comfortable life down here and I’m especially grateful to my aunt and uncle for not only hosting me but truly welcoming me into their life, but change naturally brings discomfort and that’s ok to admit regardless.
I distinctly remember one of my shifts at the café during my early weeks of work. I definitely didn’t have a confidence in myself in this role or a full grasp of all it entailed yet. (Did you know in ironies of all ironies I’m not really a coffee drinker so I didn’t even know the majority of the drinks ?). At one moment, feeling particularly uncomfortable while trying to figure out how to make someone’s drink order in the midst of a rush of customers, I paused and realized how good and how important it was to feel that way. I didn’t avoid it, I didn’t run away from the situation, I breathed it deeply into my lungs and let it fuel me. I hadn’t felt that kind of discomfort simply due to my lack of knowledge/experience in a long time and while it felt unpleasant, I could feel myself growing and expanding with my lungs and breath in that moment.
I think we rob ourselves of so much growth, joy, and new insights when we settle into our comforts for too long. While of course comfort is good as it allows the growth to really settle and solidify because we aren’t on such high alert, too much of it is a true stunt to our hearts, minds, and even bodies.
Being uncomfortable is… uncomfortable! But we need to learn how to embrace it because that is the ONLY way we grow. You’re going to stifle yourself if you try to stay comfortable or attain comfort your whole life. You’re going to miss out on the God-ordained opportunities for you to make a good and lasting impact in this world and in yourself because they always require growing pains. Let the discomfort be a moment of prayer- a way to relate to God.
I just finished reading In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Marc Batterson. He’s the author of one of my favorite books, The Circle Maker, which I’ll write a blog post about at some point as well. He says,
“The cure for fear of failure is not success. It’s failure. The cure for the fear of rejection is not acceptance. It’s rejection. You’ve got to be exposed to small quantities of whatever you’re afraid of. That’s how you build up immunity.”
This whole experience is one of facing my fears and failures (and potential failures) and allowing them to stretch me, guide me, and help me love myself and others more, even when it’s uncomfortable.
More than I’d like to admit early on during this transition I turned to watching TV or scrolling social media endlessly to numb my mind to the discomforts of these many changes, unknowns, and some unexpected heart-hurts. We all find ways to numb but we all also have the capacity to embrace the discomfort and growing pains. We’re called to battle this urge to numb, but to do so without condemning ourselves for the times we “fail” and rather using those “failures” to fuel our growth further.
So how will you get uncomfortable? You could shake up your routine- whether that’s the schedule you live or die by, your physical space, the church or stores you frequent, or fasting from certain go-to comforts you have. You could let someone younger than you teach you something you have no background in- meaning you have to rely on and trust their knowledge and experience over your own. You could learn a new skill that may seem frivolous or intimidating or fun! You could cancel your streaming service subscription *gasp*. You could initiate that conversation you’ve been avoiding…
Getting uncomfortable also means not being afraid to ask the questions we don’t have the answers to (or we do but don’t want to admit to).
Do. Not. Be. Afraid.
Ask the questions. Of yourself, to others, to God.
In the Gospel reading a couple weeks ago from Luke chapter 5, Jesus healed a paralytic man who was lowered through the roof of the house Jesus was in by a group of this man’s own friends who were determined to have him healed no matter the discomforts they faced in making it happen. Before Jesus healed him physically, He healed the man of his sins and spiritual illnesses. Then Jesus cured his paralysis, citing that as the easier healing to bestow. This man’s story didn’t end at a “simple” healing of his legs leading to a perfectly comfortable life there on out. No, there’s much more to it. We fail to recognize that the healing of his legs would have actually presented him with a whole slew of new uncomfortable situations. While he was paralyzed he couldn’t go anywhere on his own, always relying on friends to carry him, bring him food, perhaps even bathe him. This inevitably led to comfort in the routine of it all. Now, he could do that all on his own which means facing a whole new world full of uncertainties and challenges. And not only that but facing it with the call to go home and glorify God which would bring discomfort for anyone facing a society that actively lived opposed to Jesus’ teachings.
So, as you think about the kind of uncomfortable opportunities you want to take advantage of, remember that sometimes even the comforts we pray for bring with them unexpected discomforts we weren’t anticipating. Don’t let this fuel fear of praying for these healings, dreams, and necessities because as Mark Batterson says, “As we grow in a love relationship with God, we unlearn the fears that paralyze us and neutralize us spiritually. That is the essence of faith.”
Maybe that man wasn’t only paralyzed physically but spiritually or emotionally by what the world offered that he had stopped trusting God and praying for healing and it wasn’t until his friends brought him face to face with Jesus that he then faced his fears (namely God Himself) and allowed his love for God to begin growing again. Facing those fears opened up a whole new world and freedom to be loved by God and to honor God in bigger, more exciting ways.
Take time in prayer to place your life, or particular areas of your life, at the feet of Jesus and ask, “Is this something you still want for me?” Then be open to whatever His response is. If it’s yes, find ways to get uncomfortable within that area. If it’s no, then joyfully surrender that area to Him trusting that you could never give up more than God will give to you.
One last point- this passage also goes to show the importance of friendship and leading one another in love to face our fears. So, try something completely out of your comfort zone and bring a friend along with you or listen to that crazy friend trying to get you to do a Tough Mudder with her (shout-out to Steph for taking on that adventure with me ?)! It’ll be worth it. I promise!