Do you ever have those times where you keep hearing the same thing being said in totally different places, times and contexts? Usually for me that means that God is trying to tell me something.
A few weeks ago I was at a conference and the speaker was saying that at least four times a year she pushes herself outside of her comfort zones, which in and of itself did not really impact me, we all know we are supposed to push ourselves, to test out limits, try new things, but what she followed up by saying was that if we do not push ourselves, and step outside of our comfort zones, our worlds get smaller – for me that was something that had never occurred to me before, and maybe that is just me being dim, but it really challenged me and in some ways scared me.
Then this morning in church the talk was again on the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones and the “magic” that came come as a result, finishing off with this great quote:
“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery and I promise you something great will come out of it.” (We bought a zoo- the film).
I confess that I would like an easy and comfortable life, where everything goes to plan, where everyone in my life is lovely all the time, with no parenting/family issues, where money is never a worry and where the sun always shines. I hate confrontation, stress, anxiety, conflict – I do not handle them well hence why 11 years as a litigator often pushed me to the edge of myself and my sanity. I like to feel comfortable, steady and safe – I am risk averse and like to know the outcome of my decisions.
Tied into the whole subject of comfort zones for me is that of my dreams/hopes/ambitions. When John died it felt like a big part of me died too, so many of my hopes and dreams were tied up with him and the future we thought we had together and even with those that weren’t directly linked to him he was no longer there to push me forward into them, to encourage me and to catch me when I fell. Then as time went on life got consumed with trying to survive as a lone parent, whilst holding down, at times, an insanely stressful job and dealing with the big “C” and all that came once the big “C” had had its way with my family. I was exhausted and spent – there was nothing left of me to dream and if I am being honest I don’t think I wanted to dream as my dreams had left me pretty heart broken.
I think certainly for me I became so full with other stuff there was no time to dream but not only that I was scared – what if I followed those dreams and I messed up? What if people thought I was stupid or did not agree? What sacrifices would I need to make to follow my dreams – financial sacrifices, relational sacrifices, time sacrifices?
What I did know was that the law, in the big law firm sense, was not my dream. I knew that it was not what I wanted to invest my life in especially as most of the time it left a bad taste. I have written about this previously but stepping out of that safe, secure career in some ways was a no brainer as it was making me poorly but in so many other ways was so very scary. I have gone backwards and forwards in my head so many times in the last few months questioning my decision, counting the financial costs, asking whether I have just committed career suicide. It was a costly and scary decision, which has taken me very far out of my comfort zones, but in the two weeks I have been in my new job I have been so blown away – I have known a welcome like nothing else, from such gorgeous people, such encouragement, such affirmation. I have been inspired, challenged and filled with an anticipation of things to come. I have felt like a massive weight has been lifted and like I am a different person. For the first time in a very long time I feel like I am beginning to dream dreams again, I feel excited and hopeful about the future.
And I say this not as some big up to myself because it had to get pretty horrible to get my attention and shake me into action, but rather, hopefully as an encouragement that when we step out and take risks things change and shift within us, and good things come. As I heard a wise person say recently there is blessing in the sacrifice and over the last few months that has certainly been my experience – the blessings have been too many to list but what I will say is that it set something in me that makes me want to dream bigger dreams, that makes me want to take more risks, to keep stepping out of my comfort zones. I do not want to settle for the easy route, for the comfortable and safe (although some of that would be great!), as whilst that would be the easy route it would also be pretty dull. I want to go on the adventure God has for me, holding his hand tightly, trusting that he will be my provider, that he will be the one who catches me when I fall. I want to see lives transformed, people healed up and set free, and cared for and loved. I want my world and the worlds of those I come into contact with to get bigger, more colourful, more full of life and love and I know that that is not going to happen unless I am willing to make changes and sacrifices and to be brave even if that does risk failure and embarrassment at times.
Let’s encourage each other in our dreams, to be brave and to take risks and as the quote from the film says I think we could see great things come.