Well, the votes are in, and it is unanimous: God likes to stretch me. Over and over, He edges me toward the outermost boundaries of my comfort zone, then gently (or sometimes not-so-gently) nudges me across the line. And I find myself looking about in bewilderment as I wonder, “What in the world am I doing here?”
I recently experienced a bit of discomfort as I found myself facing the challenges of public transportation in the form of multiple train rides and bus transfers across England. It was the proverbial tale of the country mouse and city mouse colliding in a foreign land. Needless to say, this country mouse was a bit overwhelmed and often confused, much to the frustration of my exceedingly patient husband. Although the “patience of Job… or more appropriately ‘Jon'” seemed to wear a bit thin after awhile, even for my husband.
Which I’m certain had absolutely nothing to do with me.
Okay, so truth be told, I was the major cause of my husband’s exasperation as I tensed up and stressed out with every transfer to what I automatically assumed was the train to the wrong destination. But low and behold, we made our connections every time – even though not always in the time frame I would have preferred. And not without hitting a few bumps along the way.
Now that my feet are once again firmly planted in the soil of home, I can look back and almost laugh at the anxiousness with which I faced the same scenario that thousands of people deal with every day. Some would find it hard to believe that it took me 46 years before I ever rode on a train, but such is life in rural America. (I wonder how many of them can drive a tractor.)
So call me sheltered, but the truth is… I like my comfort zone.
I like the familiarity. The known. The expected.
Because when I know what is expected, I know how to react accordingly.
Within the circle of my comfort zone, I’m, well… comfortable. Physically at ease and relaxed. I can go through the motions without much thought and accomplish things without much effort. In short, I can handle life on my own there.
Perhaps that is why God insists on pushing me beyond the bounds. Challenging me to rely on Him. Causing me to turn my eyes heavenward and fill my lungs with prayers for assistance and guidance.
When I’m out of my comfort zone, it is clear that I need Him. And it is there that I live as if I do.
So God keeps pushing, and I keep fighting to stay within the lines of my well-drawn limits. Except I keep losing.
But perhaps in losing, I am actually winning.
For when I’m pushed beyond myself, I give in to His glory a little more each time. Unfortunately, it seems I’m only prone to relinquish the reins of control when I finally realize I am not in control. When I am aware that I’m in over my head and the situation requires more than I have to offer on my own. Hence God’s penchant for propelling me outward — away from my comfort. Away from myself.
And as I lose myself, I am actually finding myself in Him.
Resting in His strength. Dependent upon His grace. Trusting in His power to shine through this weak vessel of clay in ways that far surpass my human abilities.
Content to stray a bit further beyond the edges, I’m learning to be brave in God’s courage. Attempting things I would have run from once upon a time for fear that I would fall short of meeting the needs that were before me.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’d rather be moving forward than remaining stagnant for fear of missing the train completely or ending up in the absolute wrong place. Even if I hit a few bumps along the way.
I’m learning to trust more and more, and I’m finding comfort in some of the most uncomfortable places.
Because He is there with me.
The truth is, the more I stretch beyond myself, the more I find that He is able to complete His purposes through me. In ways I never dreamed.
For His kingdom.
For His glory.
Now if only I can find the courage to tackle that English train system…