If you know me in person (most of you do), then you’ve likely heard me talk about comfort zones. It is one of my favorite topics to discuss. I find the concept fascinating, as an observer of people. What makes up a comfort zone, and why does mine look different than yours? Is it about biological dispositions–personality, strengths/weaknesses, introvert/extrovert, skin color? Or about lived experiences–education, social connections, socio-economic class, language, culture? I don’t have the answer (I wonder if anyone really does), but wanted to share with you my thought process. When I am out on a run for an hour+, listening to music by sociologically conscious artists like Ricardo Arjona, Ben Harper, and (of course) 311, these are the things I am inspired to think about.
Sidenote–in a previous blog I outed myself as a Connector (StrengthsFinder). I’ll now reveal another of my top 5 strengths–Ideation. It’s basically a strength at thinking up ideas. Or in my case, chasing ideas down long, winding rabbit holes.
I have to laugh about the first thought I had for introducing this idea of comfort zones as it connects to my experience training for the Half Marathon. I was going to write about not wanting to run in the rain, trying it, and then realizing that I liked it. The rain is outside my running comfort zone. I stepped outside the comfort zone and took on the rain. Once in the zone of my discomfort, I found out it’s not so bad. I was going to define comfort as ‘known’ and discomfort as ‘unknown’, and then encourage you, reader, not to be held back by fear of the unknown. And there you go, a nice message packaged perfectly with a neat bow. Here’s the problem: I had this version of the blog written in my mind before I ever ran in the rain! It was 100% contrived, inauthentic, imagined, dare I say–comfortable.
You want to know what’s uncomfortable? Running. Heat. Humidity. Repeat. That’s the experience of training for a Half Marathon in Minnesota in summer months. It was uncomfortable in the beginning, and it is still uncomfortable today. Facing down a comfort zone is not like my fantasy story above–try something one time and your comfort zone automatically absorbs it. BUT, the fact that running makes me uncomfortable does not mean it’s not worth doing. We need to be careful about dismissing ideas or experiences, simply because they don’t fit within our comfort zones. Stepping outside of the comfort zone is how we grow, and yes the comfort zone will grow, too, with time.
My personal calling to serve God by serving youth in Guatemala came to me while I was outside of my comfort zone. Believe it or not, Guatemala, the country and people God gave me such a deep love for, was once unknown to me. My freshman year at Augsburg College, I took a step of faith by joining a mission trip to Guatemala with Pilgrim United Methodist church. I remember feeling fear on several levels–Who were these people I would travel with? What would accommodations be like (running water?, indoor plumbing? I had no idea)? What about the language barrier? My great-grandmother was near death at the time, what if she passed away while I was gone? My fears were tied up with my zones of physical comfort, social comfort, and family comfort. I chose to go to Guatemala despite my fears, and God changed my life.
For some of you, that last sentence may be uninspiring. Maybe you don’t want your life changed by God. I get it. You’re stuck in comfort zone thinking. I’ll pray for you.😉
In all seriousness, Comfort Zone breaching does not happen (at least not intentionally) without some measure of faith. By definition of it being the ‘unknown’ we cannot know what the future holds for us there. But with faith, we can trust that God is the author of our future whether we find ourselves inside or outside of the comfort zone. I am convinced that it’s a universal truth that more good is accomplished by those who acknowledge their comfort zone, and then choose to explore what’s outside of it. With Comfort, it’s too easy to become complacent or apathetic (yikes!). In contrast, Discomfort keeps us on our toes, and most importantly, it keeps us dependent on God to guide us.
Se Luz recently served the family of Edwardo Quel. I share their story, not to exploit them, but to show you the power of stepping beyond that barrier between comfort/discomfort. For over 60 years, this family has dwelt in a shack made of rusted sheet metal, corn stalks, and tarp. Edwardo and his 4 sons (a daughter lives with her aunt) have eked out a living with day labor in the fields and selling cooking wood. This family is a textbook case of generational poverty.
When we visited the Quel property (the men were out looking for work), our board raised an important question about how building a 2-room block house for this family will alleviate their day to day stresses related to lack of income and food supply. The answer was subtle, but so important. We pulled them outside their comfort zone, first by showing up to build them a home, and second by involving them in the building project (and we hope, future Se Luz projects as well). For Edwardo Quel, accepting help from the community was uncomfortable, as well as spending a day or two NOT searching for the means to eat for that day (Se Luz made sure the Quel family and our youth had food to eat). The benefits to Edwardo and his sons as a result of this project are the obvious–a new home, and the not-so-obvious–stronger community ties, a sense of belonging in place of abandonment, a new vision for the future.
I realize that for some people, donating money to non-profit work is outside their comfort zone. If that describes you, I challenge you to try it! Become part of the Se Luz support community! I believe God will bless you for it, especially if it is the Spirit who is nudging you to give. As always, we are so very grateful for all the ways you lend us your support–prayers, words of encouragement, sharing our story, and yes, your money. Here’s how you can give:
Mailing address: Se Luz Ministries, Inc, 4325 Zachary Ln N, Plymouth, MN 55442
For online giving, simply click HERE
For further inspiration on moving beyond your comfort zone, here’s a great list of related scriptures!