It’s good to be uncomfortable

When I was a little kid (8 or 9 years old), I took piano lessons. My mom is a really accomplished musician, and she wanted me and my brother to be comfortable with music. I liked piano, and I was pretty good at it, but I lacked the discipline to really practice, which is what eventually led me away from music as a potential career. But during the years that I played, my mom always set up a series of recitals for us.

I hated recitals. I hated getting up in front of people. I hated knowing that people were watching me. I hated the possibility that I would make a mistake and look like a fool. But my mom insisted that I do them, even though I hated them, because it was good for me. If I had never gotten up in front of people, I would have missed out on some really important lessons that I’ve needed in life. I needed to know how to present myself to people. I needed to know how to be professional in front of an audience.

Honestly, I needed it more than I ever could have imagined. This coming Saturday, I’ll be up in front of a crowd reading from my latest novel. Believe me, I’ll be drawing on some of the things I learned during those dreaded piano recitals.

I didn’t like them. They were the last thing on earth that I wanted to do. But I needed them, because if I’d stayed comfortable in my little introverted shell, I would never have learned what I needed to know.

4K2VPPOSR1Today’s verse is Joshua 1:9.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

I think this may be a verse I’ve said to myself more than any other verse. I put myself in these uncomfortable situations, and while it’s important for me to be there, I don’t want to be there. I’m scared. I feel inadequate. I feel like anyone else would be better suited to the job than me. But it isn’t anyone else there. It’s me.

God has specific things for me to do, and He wants me to be courageous in how I do them. That means pressing forward when I don’t know how to do something. That means having enough humility to ask for help when I’m stumped. That means trusting other people to know the right decision when I don’t.

Fear keeps me rooted in place, and that’s not the life God has for me. Insecurity keeps me silent when God is telling me to speak up. That isn’t what God has called me to. I’m supposed to live victoriously. I’m a conqueror. More than a conqueror, the Bible says. So what am I doing cowering in the corner when God’s already won the battle for me?

I can’t go far enough away to escape God, even if I wanted to. He’s always with me, so why do I insist on being afraid? My silly fallen nature, I guess.

So what is it that God wants to teach you? Everyone has something. We all have a lesson we’re in the middle of learning, and take it from someone who knows, most lessons aren’t fun. Most lessons mean you have to get uncomfortable, and we live in a world that tells us to get comfortable. Our culture tells us to find where we are happy and stay there and never push the edges and never challenge the status quo. And that kind of living is fine if you want to stay the way you are. But I don’t.

I want to grow. I want to know God better, deeper, more than I did yesterday, and I can’t do that by standing still. My faith can’t grow if I don’t challenge it, and I can’t challenge my faith by only doing the things I’m comfortable doing.

So I’m going to get uncomfortable. How about you?

Advertisements
The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Watching clouds when you’ve got a job to do

I put unpleasant things off. Don’t you? If I have a task to do that I know isn’t going to be fun, I tend to avoid it until it’s absolutely necessary. That’s one reason why I schedule dentist visits six months in advance, so when the appointment comes around, I have to go.

It’s easy to avoid conflict. It’s easy to put uncomfortable tasks off. I reason with myself that now isn’t the best time anyway. I’ve got too many other things going on, and I’ll take care of it when life slows down a little. But God has something to say about that mindset.

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ecclesiastes 11:4.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Usually it’s not a good idea to pick single verses out of Ecclesiastes. It’s one of those books where context is especially important, but this verse is self explanatory. Procrastinators never get anything done. And they look for excuses to keep putting things off.

Can you imagine a farmer waiting for perfect weather to plant a field? In Kansas, that just never happens. We only have perfect weather when we don’t need it. The important times of years, planting and harvest times, it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. But the farmers here make it work in spite of the weather. And that’s the mindset we need to attack life with.

Our lives will never be perfect. There will always be something wrong. Maybe it’s a job or a relationship. Maybe it’s financial trouble or health issues. Whatever is going wrong in your life isn’t significant reason to avoid doing the right thing. If you can’t do the right thing when life sucks, you won’t do the right thing when life is better.

That begs the question, what is the right thing? Like always, the answer is what’s in the Bible. What does God say? God tells us what He expects from us. He has shown us how to live our lives. The example He set for us, and the examples other godly men and women have set for us, led us to live lives that aren’t always fun. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. Sometimes we have to take a stand against friends and family and loved ones, and sometimes that will make us the bad guys in their eyes. But what is right is right.

Don’t run away from the right thing. Don’t run away from doing what God has told you to do. You know what God says. And if you don’t, pick up a Bible and start reading. He’ll talk to you soon enough.

But whatever you do, don’t wait. Don’t sit around making promises to do what God has told you to do when life gets better. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll make the right decision when things aren’t so stressful or when you’ve cleaned up all your messes. You’ll never get there. Life is messy, and you can’t even begin to start cleaning it up until you bring it to God anyway.

If you don’t know what to do, keep waiting. God will show you. He’ll make it obvious. Believe me, He’s not that subtle. You’ll know what you’re supposed to do when the time comes. And until the time comes, just keep living life the way He says.

But if you know what God wants you to do, why are you waiting? Why are you sitting there? Do it. I know it’s scary. But your life isn’t going to work until you take the next step and do what God says. Stop putting it off. Stop making excuses. Stop watching the clouds. You’ve got a job to do.

Relaxing in a comfy chair by the windows of our room at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Get uncomfortable

Are you comfortable? Just in general. If you are, that’s good. One point some Christians really like to focus on is how we need to live sacrificially for Christ, and I don’t dispute that. But what I’ve found to  be true is that even if you sacrifice for Christ, that doesn’t necessarily equal discomfort.

I guess comfort means different things to different people. God gave us this beautiful Earth as our temporary home. It’s here for us to take care of and to enjoy. The trouble comes when we start to value our comfort more than His commands.

Relaxing in a comfy chair by the windows of our room at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Relaxing in a comfy chair by the windows of our room at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:7-9.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

I grew up with comfortable faith, and that’s not necessarily bad. We all should be comfortable with what we believe. But I do think it is possible to get too comfortable.

Religious ideas and concepts–the rituals and traditions that identify us as one denomination or another–are comforting, especially if we’ve grown up with them. Whether it’s the Eucharist, practicing confession, reciting liturgy, or skipping the third verse of a hymn, our traditions in the church sometimes give us a false sense of security–that because we choose to live in such-and-such a way or because we choose to hold to such-and-such tradition, we don’t need to ask the hard questions about faith and relationship with God.

It’s difficult to ask hard questions when you’re too comfortable.

I’m not saying that any of our religious traditions are bad or even wrong. Most of the time there is a symbol behind them that means something or should mean something (except skipping the third verse of the hymn, that one I’ve never been able to figure out). But when we rely on those traditions to define our faith, when those religious rituals become more important to us than growing and building our relationship with Christ, something’s wrong.

Or did you think once you meet Christ, that’s all there is to it?

How many relationships have you had where you just meet someone and you never get to know them better? Can you even call that a relationship? Sure, if you want to meet Christ and never speak to Him again, I guess that’s okay. But is that what you really want? If that’s the case, why meet Him at all?

I love this passage today because it always makes me stop and think about how much emphasis I put on living  “a good Christian life.” Yes, obedience is important and expected. Yes, God has given us certain standards we are to live by in order to keep us under His umbrella of blessing. But you know what?

There’s nothing l can do, no lifestyle I can live, no language I can speak, no accomplishment I can achieve that will make me worthy of the awesome gift God has given me through His grace.  That’s what grace is, people.

It’s overwhelming, completely and entirely unmerited favor. We don’t deserve it. We can never deserve it. And I love what Paul says in this passage. Yes, living a “good Christian life” is important, but those things we think make us such good Christians are meaningless.

Read this same passage again in the Message:

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

Talking like this makes me uncomfortable. Talking about these sorts of things–throwing away the symbols and traditions and rituals–is uncomfortable because I’m a creature of habit. I don’t particularly like change. I like security and certainty and repeatability.

Again, all those things aren’t bad. But compared to knowing Christ, they’re garbage. Actually, they’re worse than garbage. If my research is correct, what Paul calls them is a word that is offensive in nearly any culture (the word usage is something I’m probably going to post on later this week).

The point is, what do you value more? Your comfort? Your security? The certainty and the repeatability of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”?

Or are you willing to get uncomfortable? Are you willing to get your hands dirty? Are you willing to step away from the lists of rules and the stained-glass rituals that make you think you can do something to earn righteousness? Are you willing to offend people with the truth? Are you willing to change your mind about what following Christ actually looks like and sounds like?

If you are, hold on for the ride. Because much like sacrificing for Christ doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, being willing to get uncomfortable isn’t uncomfortable. It’s the most exciting choice you’ll ever make.