Our family dog is a pug named Chub. Pugs are known to be very smart but to have a low work ethic. It’s true, I see him pretending he doesn’t “get” the instructions. He likes creeks and hikes and walks, but he’ll also feel free to find shade in the middle of the adventure and will not budge until he’s rested. He believes he deserves a treat for every small feat- peeing, getting brushed, being cute. We often say that if he had a motto it would be, “My comfort is my #1 priority.”
Now, while I wouldn’t wholeheartedly agree with Chub, I get it. I like my comforts too.
I appreciate sleeping in a bed with good linens. I want to cook with the freshest and highest quality ingredients. I feel most at home in the company of those who know me well and I look forward to loungy clothes and perfect temperatures. When it’s hot and humid I get real whiny and then in the “winter” when the thermostat falls below 70 degrees, I turn on the heat. I prefer to live in a quaint neighborhood with mature trees, good architecture and great people. Oh, and I also want it to be safe. I would call myself adventurous and new experiences excite me, but if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t choose many uncomfortable situations for myself these days.
Life is generally uncomfortable enough. I clean up pee and deal with meltdowns daily. I’m sleep deprived and my body feels as though it’s been switched out with an older, frumpier one. My hands feel full and my mind feels even fuller.
It’s hard to think outside of the 20 mile radius that I roam. The concerns of parenting and finances and the efforts of serving my church and community are valid and they take most of the energy I have. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being focused on my own small world or in cultivating a comfortable life- unless I keep myself so protected that I begin to live selfishly and lack perspective. I inhibit my own growth. I get soft.
So I ask myself, “Is my own comfort in its proper place on my priority list?” “Do I choose to do things that scare me a bit?” “Do I occasionally expand my radius?” Do I pursue others in need?”
Sometimes. And sometimes someone else does it for me.
My husband Brian and our friend Morgan planned a 5 day missions trip to Mexico for a group of teenagers and their families. Brian assumed that our whole family would go because, why not? We’re a little wild, we want to serve others as a family and the trip was well tested and safe. Since Morgan leads these type of trips full-time and Brian is an experienced pastor and traveler, I eagerly agreed. And then waited until about a week before we left to really think through what we had signed up for. I have been on many similar trips (long ago) but never with my kids. There are lots of possible scenarios involved in this kind of experience and most of them are uncomfortable. Just a sampling….
- Our car got rear ended 30 feet into the country.
- I took a shower in a trickle of water holding a slippery 2 yr old.
- We had to put our used toilet paper in a trash can instead of flushing it.
- I did whatever I was asked to do, even if I didn’t feel prepared.
- We spent most of our days in an area that was hot, windy, had lots of flies and didn’t have proper sewage systems (if you can imagine that combo).
- I don’t really speak Spanish.
- We went into homes to deliver food and pray with people. One of those homes was that of a single mom and her 5 kids who all live under a tarp.
- We met parents that can’t feed their kids.
- We met children who can’t go to school because they have no birth record or because they have to take care of their siblings while mom or dad works (or abuses drugs).
I felt frustrated, awkward, heartbroken and inadequate. Feelings that can’t be tied up with pretty ribbon. But as each day passed, I became more at ease with being uncomfortable and realized that I also felt humbled, useful and hopeful. It just takes practice really. (More on our trip can be found in my post “I See a White Butterfly”)
Staying insulated can keep us from living an abundant life because fear is crippling and laziness is boring. We could miss lessons and highlights and growth. Constant self-protection makes us inwardly focused, while many of life’s worthwhile journeys beckon us to live outwardly. Friendship, marriage, parenting, following Jesus- they call us to put another’s needs ahead of our own. Often uncomfortable, but worth it. Pursue that hard conversation. Stick your neck out for someone. Give a little more than feels safe.
Time spent out of our element can change the fabric of who we are. It helps produce beautiful things, golden threads. We come back to our cozy corner, a bit different. Stronger, having clearer perspective, more alive.