Words of Wellness

April 12, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner

Moving Out of Our Comfort Zones

Signs of new life and new beginnings are all around us this time of year.† Many of us have just celebrated Easter and many are in the midst of Passover celebrations.† Birds are returning from warmer climates and buds are breaking out everywhere.† How can we resist being uplifted by all these stories and signs of new life?† That actually is a very important question. Why do we as human beings resist experiences of new life and new beginnings?

†††† Every one of us has a "comfort zone" within which we operate.† This comfort zone includes our daily routines and our familiar ways of interacting with the world, from what we eat for breakfast every day to how we interact with the people in our life.† It also includes how we see ourselves--what we say to ourselves about ourselves, such as "I'm not much of a talker," or "I'm a saver, not a spender," or "I can't relax until my 'to do' list is completed." †

†††† Our comfort zones are well, comfortable.† They are familiar patterns and habits that, by definition, we don't have to spend much time thinking about.† They are routine and predictable.† We feel safe in our comfort zones, and so do the people around us.† If someone you love begins to act in a way that is very different than how they normally act, we will probably say something like "that just doesn't sound like you." †

†††† So what do our comfort zones have to do with the signs of new life that are all around us right now?† The connection is this: unless we are careful, our comfort zones may inhibit our ability to experience this and other types of new life.† New life and new ways of doing things, whether for a person, a couple, a family or an organization are by definition outside of one's normal comfort zone.† This means that new life and new ways of doing things are by definition uncomfortable.† All change is uncomfortable at first and we often resist it for just that reason.

†††† When Moses led the Hebrew people on the Exodus journey, he was taking them from the slavery and bondage of living in Egypt, through the Sinai wilderness to the new life promised to them in Israel.†† Shortly into the wilderness journey, do you know what the people were saying to Moses?† They said, "we want to go back to Egypt.† This journey is too hard and not what we expected."† That's right, they wanted to go back to the comfort zone of slavery rather than push through the discomfort that would lead to new life and freedom. †

†††† We can learn from this.† While we might say we want new life, we tend to want it in a way that we will not have to feel uncomfortable.† It's as if we want new life, but we don't want to have to change to get it.† A father wants to deepen his connection with his children, but will have to push through the discomfort of not knowing exactly how to do it.† A couple who has been fighting a lot wants to stop, but paradoxically they will have to work through the discomfort that comes for them when they stop fighting.† An organization in decline wants to things to be different, but not enough so that they are actually willing to make the significant changes that are necessary for new life to be possible.

†††† Knowing that our initial experience of new life is to feel uncomfortable, I hope we can all be a little more open to that feeling. For each of us there is probably some way that life is asking us, maybe even demanding of us, to expand our comfort zones right now.†† What are the specific ways you are being asked to grow and change right now? What change or changes are important enough to you that you are willing to go through a period of discomfort for a while. †

††† The stories of new freedom and the stories of resurrection are not just ancient stories.† They continue to be written and lived in the present, if and when, we are willing overcome our fear and participate in living those stories in our own lives today.

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