By Shannon Youell
I like my space.
My comfortable space. The place where I feel sure that everything is as it should be and where it should be. It’s safe. It’s predictable. I don’t have to do contortions to fit into it. I know what to wear and how to act; I know the best place to sit and that the food in the fridge is something I like.
My space is just…there. It doesn’t do much; not really. But I easily fall into it when I’m tired or challenged; bored or unimaginative; scared or unsure. It’s black and white familiarity without the uncertainties of those grey areas.
Problem is, God’s good world isn’t primarily black or white or even grey. God’s good world is full of colour, wonder, adventure and challenges. Yes, it’s also a fallen place, with a despiser of all that is good, true, pure and lovely; where there are traps and snares and enticements. But when life is spent avoiding anything that might disturb us, it is at the expense of the colour, wonders and adventure. I find in those moments that I have also avoided joining God in the goodness of His redemptive, restorative, reconciliatory work. And I miss the joy and beauty of witnessing God’s good gospel alive and at work. These, in retrospect are my deepest moments of grief. When I recognize that my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone also caused me to avoid stepping into what God was doing around me.
Out of the Zone
So I made a decision some time ago not to be haphazard or frivolous, but to be prayerful and attentive. And when fear wells up from some long-rooted source, to examine the benefits of plunging instead of being sidelined. So choosing not to be sidelined yet again by fear and past experiences, I went fishing.
A few weeks ago, staff gathered at Gull Lake in Alberta for meetings, prayers and reflections.
During a few hours off for recreation, I was invited to go fishing. Now I’m not a fishing person. Never really held much interest for me. And even more so, I am not a boat person—at least not when that boat is floating in deep water, and especially when it is smaller than a BC Ferry. So initially I gave all my pat reasons for not going, including the two goliaths: one, that the boat is quite small and two, Dennis Stone folds it up flat like a surfboard when he’s transporting it. It has bendable seams and a super soaker to suck up the water that leaks into those seams! But, sensing God was doing something here with me I plunged ahead.
I swallowed my fear and allowed God’s good creation to woo me. And there I saw God at work all around us. And I reeled in a wall-eyed pike. And I held it. And I kissed it…well I posed that I kissed it. It was amazing and fun and I wasn’t afraid or nervous because I was too in awe of how God had a hold on all my fears and excuses, while He unfolded His wonders around us.
So what has all this to do with church planting and being missionaries in our neighbourhoods?
Staying in our comfort zones causes us to miss out on what God is already doing. We have all sorts of excuses for why something that doesn’t look like it always has won’t work, couldn’t work and surely isn’t what God might have in mind.
Yet, in our purpose as God’s missionaries in the places we live, work, play, and pray in, we will be faced over and over again with our own uncomfortableness. Because stepping into our uncomfortableness demonstrates our willingness to live among and amidst the brokenness and bruising of our shared human experiences. We begin to see the big scary things as lovely things that God has waiting for us to unwrap and discover, hold and kiss.
I believe our biggest challenge to sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, of seeing God’s redemptive work all around us is our retreat to our comfort zones. The zone may look different for each us and for each of our collective selves gathered on any given Sunday, but those comfort zones can be barriers that make our faith sure of what we’ve already determined and certain of what we see rather than a faith where we are sure of what we hope for (the reality of God’s in-breaking Kingdom on earth), and a certainty in what we do not yet see.
We are praying this year for breaking out of our comfort zones, of looking at God’s goodness in the world and joining there. Will you pray that too? Can we step out and discover, that indeed we are the missionaries, the harvesters, the fishers, in our everyday spaces and places and there is nothing more wondrous and beautiful and exhilarating than seeing God transform hearts—ours included.