Thursday, January 1, 2009
Ten ways I stepped out of my comfort zone this year
So since I named this blog, Comfortable Being Uncomfortable (which makes it sound like I am –and I most assuredly am not!), I thought I would review 2008 by sharing 10 things that required me to step out of my comfort zone. Some were good things and some I hope to never have to repeat, but all were learning experiences. So here they are in no particular order.
1. I went down to the river to pray. All my life I have sought a community of faith (okay—except during my college years). And when we first moved to Alabama, my stepfather had a church family which happened to be Baptist. So at age 12, I joined that church which involved submitting to being baptized again. Now I’d been baptized as an infant and confirmed at age 10. I didn’t need to be re-baptized! At age 16, when I could drive, I drove myself back to the UMC. So for me, immersion baptism has always been associated with a legalistic understanding of baptism that ignores the faith journey and God experiences of the majority of Christians. So while I acknowledged that immersion was a one of the options for baptism in the UMC, I never planned to do one. But this fall, I went down to the river and baptized 8 people by immersion in the Tennessee River. Lessons learned: humility, how to dress (most common GOOD advice-don’t wear a white shirt. And I learned the hard way, water shoes are not helpful when you are standing in inches of silt!), and the power of the community of faith.
2. I went to jail. I plan to post more on this later. But on Christmas Eve this year, I went with a member of New Life to help prepare a meal for the inmates at Marshall County Jail and we also visited with the women. One group had already spent 20 minutes or so with them when we went to visit and we were told that every one of them had recommitted their life to Christ. And when we walked into the cell block, you could feel the Spirit in the place. It felt like Sunday in the conference room of an Emmaus Walk. The place was electric. When we left one of the inmates told Denise that she could bring me back, so I guess I will.
3. I went to rehab. New Life is involved in a ministry called So Far at Cedar Lodge in Guntersville. So Far is an Emmaus-like event held on Saturday mornings for those residents of Cedar Lodge who wish to participate. We send in four teams each year—two male and two female. So this fall, I went with the women’s team. The testimonies were powerful and the women touched my heart. I also hope to return with our women’s team in the spring.
4. I found out how to grab a congregation’s attention. And while I may not necessarily approve of Ed Young and others preaching on sex to bring in the crowds (and I’m sure they are SO worried that I might not approve), I can see why it works. When I sadly had to announce the termination of a staff member’s employment, my announcement was preceded by three warnings that what I was about to say might not be appropriate for children. I hope to never have this experience again!
5. I learned (the hard way) that people hear things differently. On that same occasion, I learned that TV ads give certain phrases meaning and we have to be aware of those connotations. I also learned (what I knew but it was brought home to me in a powerful way) that our life experiences impact how we hear certain things.
6. I had to say goodbye to a people I love and care for. The end of my brother’s marriage, the termination of a staff member I cared for, and leaving Trinity reminded me of how much I hate change and how some change is good and other bad but change itself is inevitable. And it really is true that there is always room in your heart for more people! As they taught me in Brownie Girl Scouts, "Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold!"
7. I had to say hello to a new place, new people, and a new way of doing ministry. More change! I don’t think I realized how different it would be to serve a church outside of Huntsville. As my congregation often reminds me, “Things are different in Grant.” And I have probably been more of a culture shock for them than the move to Grant has been for me. So they’ve been learning about me and I about them. And while it has overall been a wonderful and exciting experience there have been a few difficult moments and all of it is a bit uncomfortable for someone who hates change as much as I do!
8. I had to let go and give control to God. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last and I’d love to say I have learned how to do this well, but I still struggle with issues of control. However, every time I find I can hand it all over to God, God does a magnificent job (much better than I–go figure!).
9. I applied and was accepted to a Doctorate of Ministry program. I am a bit of nerd when it comes to school. I’ve always loved it—the learning, the challenge, the professors, the students. But I was still a bit uncertain. In fact, I applied figuring God would close the door if I wasn’t supposed to walk through it. But the door is open and I start in a couple of weeks. And despite having a great experience at Vandy, I am more than a bit uncomfortable with learning to read theology books again (they use big words and long rambling sentences!) and writing academic papers (I write like I talk and I talk like I write—not everyone appreciates that! Hopefully these professors will).
10. I claimed the fact that while I don’t like change and I don’t like discomfort, I will, in fact, court them when I feel God calling me to do so. Of course, this is one of those times when I have to learn the lesson of “letting go and letting God” yet again!
So where have you had to step out of your comfort zone this year?