Outside the Comfort Zone, Part II

I wrote about Comfort Zones (and my confusion about Canadian football) a few blogs back, and I thought I would share some more thoughts about it. While this is intended primarily for artists, I think it might have applicability to all of us…

Katie Albert, who I worked with on staff at Oak Hills, recently resigned to pursue ministry and adventures in Africa. She is working with various organizations, including Barefeet and the Urban Refugee Project Peace Center. She is using her artistic gifts to design logos, be a photojournalist, and of course, other important, behind the scenes acts of ministry. I have added her blogsite to my links. Check it out—she has some amazing photographs.

I shared with her that I was going to Germany through Thanksgiving to support the Proclaim! International Missions organization, and she shared via email some thoughts about the concept of Comfort Zones:

“I’m learning more and more that comfort zones are just useless. They’re just a definition of what doesn’t make us uncomfortable, and why do we think comfort is so important? Living life within such a structure isn’t really living, it’s just killing time, life maintenance. Life is much fuller and far more interesting when we ignore the question, “does this make me uncomfortable?” And let me tell you, that’s an easy lesson to learn here—everything’s uncomfortable. I think that’s part of the reason I feel a little more free, artistically. Or unafraid.”

Katie shares some truth with us here. We seem to apply the Comfort Zone concept to a lot of things: Where we live, what we do, how we express our art, and even how we see ourselves. Ultimately, it is a limitation we place upon ourselves, and a false limitation at that. Comfort Zones are not just an explanation of our fears and egocentricity, it is an excuse for them.

Here are some practical ways to get out of the comfort zone. Some of these ideas might seem really silly, but I think there might be others you might relate to, and maybe just a few you might feel convicted of.

Serve in an area that might make you uncomfortable. Examples might include a soup kitchen, a local food bank, a nursery or children’s ministry, or an after-school youth program. You will be surprised at how God will grow you when placed in these situations.

Look for God-given opportunities to act. Stop for the guy on the side of the road who has a flat tire. Engage the homeless man in a conversation. Talk to the businesswoman who has the seat next to you on the airplane.

Put yourself in situations that are counter-intuitive. If you are an artist who hates being in the spotlight, then maybe you need to step into the light more. Conversely, if you are typically in the spotlight, then maybe you need to serve behind the scenes for awhile. If you are motivated by money, play for free. If you are motivated by fame, serve in secret.

This counter-intuition applies to our art as well. If you are a painter, try some photography. If you are a a guitarist, take a few cello lessons. If you are a writer, take a cooking class.

• This is a pretty personal one for me: If you aren’t a “hugger” (and you know who you are), make it a point to start purposefully hugging people. I am not a hugger by nature, and a number of years ago, I began hugging people simply as a spiritual discipline, to move myself out of my own hangups and to respond to an area I thought God wanted to grow me. Interestingly, I was surprised at how life-giving and powerful an honest hug can be to others—and to myself.

If you aren’t usually a hand raiser in worship, raise your hands. Or dance. Or get on your knees. The expression of worship needs to be an area where we really need to grow outside our comfort zones, outside of what might seem socially permissible. Besides, it’s not about us, remember.

If you are an artist, use your art to move you to action. If you are a musician, there are a good number of short-missions opportunities worldwide. If you are a photographer or videographer, you can use your gifts to document a missions trip internationally or raise visibility for some ministry locally. If you are a visual artist or a dancer, teach a class to underprivileged children. I bet if you thought about it, there are any number of creative ways to put legs to your art.

The point is to push ourselves out of the self-imposed constraints we have placed upon ourselves. And in the process, we grow not only our art, but our souls as well.

A number of weeks ago, I was approached with an opportunity to play in a prison. ML3 would lead worship at the Sierra Conservation Center, a minimum to medium security prison in northern California. As the opportunity was presented to me, my Comfort Zone radar started to go off loudly inside my head. Everything in me wanted to find an excuse so I could say “no.”

And that’s why I said “yes.”

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