I’ve been pondering the mysteries of guidance again recently. Soon I shall have to face the thought of deciding what to do with the next few years of my life. (suggestions on a postcard please) One of the least helpful things Christians say to each other when thinking about the future (apart from the endless door analogies) is ‘get out of your comfort zone’. On the face of it, that sounds like good advice, leaving one with the daring notion of not settling for second best, getting out there (wherever there is) and other exciting feelings. Whatever I decide to do next, above all I must get out of my comfort zone.
But there’s a problem, once more, with the language. I don’t really think there is a happy jolly path we could skip down in life, a path with birds singing, sofas at convenient intervals and a big neon sign proclaiming ‘comfort this way’. There isn’t a choice between the way of comfort and the way of hardship. There isn’t a series of choices that will earn me more brownie points in heaven, or a series of choices that will make our Maker just about let me in with the other lameoes who settled for life on a sofa. The reality is, every path we take, every job we go for, every place we call home will involved hardship and suffering, just as much as it will involve joy, laughter and peace. There is no escape, there is no location or vocation that is the comfort zone.
The comfort zone is found in my attitudes, my values, the way I respond to life around me. I can choose the way of comfort or not everyday, whatever the shape of the things I do in this life. I am called each day to put me aside and live a life of love, of self giving, of selflessness in each and every situation in front of me. I’m called to live out the reality of who I have been made to be in response to the circumstances around me. That will bring joy, sorrow, suffering, tears, rejoicing, laughter, pain and ecstasy. If I deny who I am, live for me and my short term smiles then I should be challenged out of my comfort zone. I am called, wherever I may be, to live as I truly am, to obey the call to love and be generous. These things are not dependant on where I am or what I do in this life.
The term ‘get out of your comfort zone’ seems to be employed by people who are looking for more levels in this Christian life, to see people out on the mission field in Azerbaijan as more sorted/holy/really-doing-the-lords-work than those working for a bank in England. The reality is both those things can be done to be self serving or in deep love for those around. The only comfort zone to get out of is the thought and attitude that says I am the centre of the universe and I get to define the terms of this life.
God is about real living in the ordinary everyday things of this world. We need to stop looking down on people we think have sold out to comfort, or elevating people who we think are really out of their comfort zone. Grace says we all can and do face the choice each day to live our Lords way whatever we do. That’s a whole lot more challenging, that means I have a choice to decide how to live today, not just when this job ends. That sets me free to know there is no right path of God’s destiny for me that I might miss. He calls me to use my human responsibility to see what my desires and passions are. I am then do something but with His call to love at the centre, not my selfish desire for me to be glorified at every opportunity.