Comfort Zones

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mark 1:16-18

My analog life is coming at me hard and fast these days, which hasn’t allowed a great deal of time for writing or bloggish fellowship. I miss everyone, but I also know this is a busy-but-brief season.

In two short years, my nest will likely be empty of all but animal fur, echoing with the memories of busy teenagers and their friends.

Before I grow nostalgic over events yet to be, allow me to segue into a funny moment I recently enjoyed with my heavenly Father. It happened during new faculty orientation when my boss mentioned the need to step out of our comfort zones.

My comfort zone. I stopped just short of laughing aloud.

(Legitimate reminiscence begins here).

As a young atheist, I swore I would never have children, aspiring instead to the status of eccentric aunt. I would spoil my nieces and nephews with the money I earned from the cool job I’d have – a job which I adamantly declared would NOT be teaching.

However, God did not allow me to continue in my atheism long, startling me into full awareness of Him by gifting me with our son, Nathan – whose name I much later learned is Hebrew for “He gives.”

Do you enjoy irony?

Evidently, so does my God.

Before the dust settled around the collapsed house of cards my old worldview turned out to be, God gave me two more children in fairly rapid succession.  But He was only setting the stage.

Now that He had my attention with an undeniable call to motherhood, He placed a new calling on my life: Homeschooling.

What, Lord?? You must be kidding!”

He wasn’t.

He called me to teach my children – not only about Him, but about reading, writing, and all the things as well. In the meantime, the Lord continued removing cushions from my comfort zone. 

For example, I was painfully shy and loathed talking in groups. He had plans for that, too.

You know that awkward silence that happens when a group leader asks a question and everyone looks at the floor and hopes someone else will speak up? Guess who gets to break those silences? Turns out, speaking up was a nonsensical fear.

To avoid writing a lengthy, multi-part series about the methodical deconstruction of my comfort zone, let me fast forward a bit.

After a decade of homeschooling, breaking awkward silences, teaching classes of young children, and a grand array of other things I said I’d never do, I thought I’d learned my lesson pretty well. However, I’m afraid I did state out loud to others that middle school students were not my favorite age group.

You see where this is going, don’t you? I should have…

Back to orientation for my new job – as an office assistant and a middle school photography teacher.

On the way home, I talked with the Lord, reflecting about how I no longer had a comfort zone. Since my first faltering steps of obedience, He’s taken me on a whirlwind journey down overgrown paths and little-used avenues in directions I didn’t even know existed.

I’ve never once known what is coming next, but somehow I’ve lost my anxiety about the future along the way. Pretty sure I dropped it along with a sizeable hunk of self-interest during one of many full-bore pivots around a blind hairpin turn.

Anyway, as we talked, I heard that beloved, oh-so-familiar whisper. You still have a Comfort Zone; just not the same one.

He’s right. He always is.

My comfort zone is much more expansive than it used to be. It’s less a zone than an Eternity.

You see, my present comfort zone is precisely in the middle of God’s will. It’s always an adventure, not always exactly comfortable for my flesh, but it is the safest and best place I can be.  

And it’s exactly where I want to be.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, 
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever, 
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26:3-4

Good Friday Reflections

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19

If Good Friday were the end of the story and the Man on the cross merely died, the way I’ve lived my life for the last 17-odd years has been nothing more than a waste.

Without the Resurrection, the sacrifices I’ve made, the pain I’ve endured, the hours spent in prayer and Bible study, the money gifted to the Church and missions – wasted. Useless. Meaningless.

But don’t ask me. Ask Moses, a Ugandan man who’s been run out of his home along with his wife and 6 children because of his decision to follow Yeshua instead of Mohammed.

Or Sukbati whose husband was murdered for his faith and who now must support five children in the midst of her grief. Yet she has said she will not give up on Jesus.

Without the Resurrection, Good Friday is no longer good. It becomes just a day that another man died – one of billions. And Moses and Sukbati and millions like them suffer needlessly – giving up ease in this life for no reason at all.

Worse yet, without the Resurrection, we are all still in our sins. Me, Sukbati, and all believers. Believe it or not, friends, that’s worse than any persecution or pain this life can throw at us.

It means an ancient and creeping death sickens our hearts and decays our spirits, destroying any hope of restoration with our Creator and making mockery of the innate desire for immortality we all hold deep within. That is what sin is, and how rightly we should feel horror at it.

But the good news of Good Friday is that it did not end when Yeshua declared, “It is finished,” and gave up His spirit.

Firstly, His death was an act of purpose – He gave up His spirit; it was not taken from Him. He died on purpose, giving His perfect life in payment of the debt we have all incurred by our rebellious ways.

Then, on the first Easter Sunday, God raised up His one and only Son, so that the final victory over sin and death has been won. Sin brought death into the world; the sinless life of Yeshua Messiah, Christ Jesus my Lord, took on death and defeated it by His return to life.

Now we who are in Christ live a life of self-sacrifice – not because we are good people or for some hope of self-improvement – but because we are grateful for the Man who bought back our souls from death.

The life I live, I do not live for the praise of others but out of sheer thankfulness. If He gave His perfect life for me, I can certainly give my broken mess right back to Him. It may not be much, but it’s all I have. And I give it willingly, grateful even if I am ever called to suffer the rest of my years for His sake, because He already suffered for mine.

The hope of Easter is not a hope for today or for any earthly good at all. It’s a hope for a future far beyond today; a hope that in 100 and 1000 and countless years beyond, those of us who follow Jesus now will be following Him still, rejoicing in His presence, forever freed from sin, death, and despair.

Forever adoring the One who first adored us so much that He gave up the life of His one and only Son that we may join Him in eternal worship.

Hallelujah! He is risen!