Life in the Comfort Zone
I often tease my mother that I showed an interest in playing the piano at the age of four years old...and she showed an interest in my playing for the next 14 years. It's quite possible that my passion for playing the piano fizzled after the first few years of lessons when it became apparent that this wasn't just made up of fun theory games but it involved work. Effort. Determination. Discipline. And all those ugly kind of words.
If it didn't come easily, I wasn't interested. In my mind, if I was good at something, it would come easily to me to do. And I would enjoy it. But life quickly taught me otherwise. And what life didn't teach, my mother quickly picked up the slack.
My mother, Pam Greene, is a notoriously determined woman who has always been a self-starter. If she has a passion for something, she lets nothing stand in her way to accomplish at least some measure of success in that field of interest. She relishes in a good challenge, it seems, and sees life as an adventure to be giggled through. Fortunately, she saw this more phlegmatic, resistant to change, firstborn daughter of hers as another outlet for adventure.
Those who have known me since childhood will attest to the fundamental temperament at my very core. Phlegmatic? Check. More serious in personality? Check. Bashful? Check. Fearful of attention? Check. But fascinated by my mother, absolutely! There was some measure of power she had over me that terrified and intrigued me. (Lord, grant this exquisite gift to me with MY children!) I knew better than to tell her 'no' and, perhaps subconsciously, desired to please her and test out the waters that scared me spitless.
What I now know and will forever be grateful to her for is that nothing about my life allows me to do anything but seek comfort outside my comfort zone. Had she allowed me to meet only the standard of my personal level of comfort, I would be the quintessential wallflower, incapable of connecting with others and paralyzed with fear at the thought of meeting new people, going new places, or staying at home alone without my husband nearby. You see, at the age of 14 I acknowledged a call to full-time ministry. It was during that section of time that I can point to a "turning up the heat" phase from Mom. "Let's get you ready to answer that call."
As a typical tween and young teen, I recall clearly saying to my Mom, "I'm not YOU! I am not as outgoing as you and am just not good at being in front of people like that. That's not who I am." Her response may not be a direct quote but the message was quite clear: "I'm not shaping you into being me. I'm directing you to who God needs you to be." God had put the core ingredients in my supply basket. It was now up to me, with guidance from my parents, God's Word, and the Holy Spirit, to create the most appealing recipe from them.
If you are around me often, you may hear me refer to my life as God's hilarious joke on me. The nature of what our life requires leaves very little opportunity for me to grow too comfortable. For someone who enjoys travel but prefers the comforts of home, I've shared the road of evangelism with my husband now for over 18 years--in a new place each week. This introvert is required to meet new people and engage in meaningful conversation on a very consistent basis. At 5'1" I'm required to guard our home like a bulldog and manage our household and ministry office without the protection of my 6'2" husband more nights than I care to tally. And ultimately, my resistance to public attention has only led me to front and center of stages across the nation in music, worship, and speaking ministry.
You know what I've discovered? I now relish in discomfort. Much of what used to frighten me to tears has now become much more palatable. And the weaknesses and insecurities of who will think what, or if I'm as good as that Women's Ministry Celebrity, or still 'in the pocket' when I've been off the road tending to household duties rather than vocalizing? They are still there. I still face them. But I don't lay down to be dominated by them.
What I've discovered is the high of adventure that comes from being outside of what I know and flying high solely with what I believe! I love predictability, but it's sure amazing to be surprised when God grants a blessing bigger than I had hoped for. There's simply no exchange for stepping out nervously in to unknown territory of "can I do this?" only to either find success or die laughing at myself for at least giving it a shot.
What is holding you back from your 'next'? What have you said 'no' to in the past because you didn't think you could conquer it with ease? And more importantly, what has God asked you to do that you've emphatically turned down because the skill needed wasn't easily accessed in your current toolbox?
The truth is, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
When you look over the entirety of Scripture, you'll not find anyone who accomplished God's plan without stepping out by faith to accomplish it. While God places within us ground-floor elements that shape our personalities and natural abilities that give us a great start and general direction, the greatest accomplishments and acts of obedience are realized only by faith and obedience. Moses stuttered but at age 80 was given the assignment of leading millions of stubborn people to their Promised Land. Esther was an unassuming Jewish woman who, by providence of God, was given dynamic favor in reward for her willingness to lay her life on the line to obey His request. David was the youngest in his family and unlikely to climb the societal rung from shepherd to king but he took courage in God's trust and direction. Peter went from being a zero to a hero after the Holy Spirit baptized him with power! He went from tripping over his tongue to preaching with an altar response in the multiplied thousands!
Only you can know the depth of God's plan for your life. It doesn't mean you're destined for a pulpit ministry or required to simply do something you hate as an act of obedience. But it does mean you will only be fulfilled and at peace when you are on the other side of surrender and taking that first step. It will become easier and then it will become harder. And then it will become easier again. You just might wrestle with thoughts like I do from time to time. "Is this worth this? Does anyone else care about what God has asked ME to do?" But we aren't liable for the response of others. We are held responsible for pleasing the Father. Galatians 1:10 says, "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." Paul knew that many would not validate the revelatory Gospel he was assigned to deliver. But he made a vow to obey the command of God.
Break out of that comfort zone! Let life begin in you!
I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Bridgette Tomlin is a wife, mother of two girls, and 'minister of the et cetera' alongside her husband, Chresten from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She loves a great cup of steaming hot tea, the blessing of quiet spaces where she can think now and again, and the art of a handwritten note. While she's a vocalist, speaker, writer, and admin, Bridgette's heart is fully engaged in connecting every woman to their God-given call and gifts with authentic candor. You can follow her blog from their ministry site at www.ctministries.com.