In our PCA world, I’m mainly known as the Women’s Ministry Director of Harvest USA, and an occasional speaker at events like our national Women’s Leadership Training Conference. People see me from ‘afar’ and might assume that my active engagement in these spheres of ministry is comfortable, perhaps always been easy.
When I sensed God calling me to accept my current ministry position, I was excited and nervous! Sexuality issues?! Leading wives as a never-married-yet single?! Guiding hurting women out of severe sin patterns?! Umm….no. These were not familiar or comfortable to me.
But I jumped in by stepping out of my comfort zone and it has been quite the adventure for over eleven years. God has graciously grown and matured me ‘into’ this position, just as he gently shepherded me as a young adult out of intense shyness and insecurity to experience the teaching and speaking gifts God gave me to open his word in a variety of public contexts.
Recently I’ve taken two new steps outside of my current comfort zone. I wanted to explore using Facebook Live as a teaching and encouragement platform. Communicating over FB, to a ‘live’ audience with my privacy setting on ‘public’ was, and is, out of my comfort zone.
The second adventure is a three-part class I’m taking this year on Voice Acting! No, I’m not secretly desiring a new career as a voice-over specialist or audio book speaker. Rather, I want to use my voice for maximum impact for God’s kingdom! I’m comfortable now as a public speaker, but I don’t want to become apathetic in pressing forward towards greater maturity and bearing as much fruit as God would be delighted to produce through me. I want all of his adventures for me and fear the thought of reaching the end of my life with heavy regrets for having cozied up in my comfort zone rather than following Jesus into new places.
It’s not just ministry opportunities that take me outside of my comfort zone. Here are several sanctification ‘adventures’ that have been happening in recent years.
- Repenting from years of brokenness and self-righteousness (me) in a family relationship. This humbling path required honest looks at my heart and emotional vulnerability in a setting very much outside my comfort zone.
- Seeking out a counselor to press into pain in my heart.
- Initiating uncomfortable, tough love conversations that I knew would not be received well but had to happen for true love to be expressed.
- Bringing up an issue with a medical professional that I felt embarrassed about because I’d waited so long to actually ask for help. Who knew that the simplicity of taping a stubbed toe could work such wonders?!
Getting outside of our comfort zone happens when God calls us to do or be something that doesn’t feel easy or natural. I wonder if this is how Joshua felt when God called him to lead God’s people.
“Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel….I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:1-2, 5)
Replace a respected and gifted leader?! Cross over into unknown enemy territory?! I’m guessing that Joshua felt very much outside his zone of ease and comfort. But those feelings did not deter him. He didn’t do a 180 and run back to his tent in fear because he didn’t know what was ahead.
Joshua listened, believed, and acted! He stepped out, trusting that “every place” his foot landed, God would be with him. This truly enCOURAGEs me so much!
What about you? Do you sense God urging you to be strong and courageous and to step out into a new adventure outside your current comfort zone? Perhaps it is an opportunity to serve or to mature gifts and talents you have. Is there an emotionally scary relational situation in which God wants you to engage? Maybe there are career decisions looming that line up with dreams you’ve had, but the unknowns are overwhelming?
Comfort zones aren’t necessarily bad, nor should we feel guilty for enjoying them! However, when our comfort distracts us from walking by faith in obedience to Jesus, it’s become one of the Hebrews 12:1-2 things that needs to be thrown off: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The deepest comfort for us is that God is with us to lead, strengthen, and provide everything we need as we follow him.
Step out! There are beautiful adventures on the other side of following Christ out of the familiar, comfortable places we sit in today.
About the Author:
Ellen received her MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1999 and serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. New Life Presbyterian in Dresher, PA, is her home church.