The Comfort Zone…

“You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Comfort Zone!”  (cue creepy music)

Yesterday the first team that Dan and I were involved with this summer left to head back home.  They were a smallish team–just 11 people–and a shortish team–just 8 days.  They worked hard and connected hard, and I honestly think that when they got back on that plane, they knew that it had been good.

It’s been awhile since I interacted with a team at this level.  True, I wasn’t at the project with them each day–my knee has become a bit of a professional liability–but I had dinner with them every night and got to really chat with them.  It was neat to see their hearts expand as the week went on, and to be excited about the ministry that is happening here and around the world.  Some had been other places, and for some this was their first time off of North American soil.

A couple of nights I was able to listen in as they did their daily debrief, and then Tuesday as they did a final debrief with Dan and Paul before they left for home.  One recurring theme that caught my attention was “comfort zone”.  Being outside of it, what it looks like for different people, how to be a part of ministry and not get so caught up in details that you miss the big picture…I started thinking about “comfort zones”.  And as you all know, when I think about serious stuff I think someone should read it, so here we go.

Our comfort zone may be the most intensely personal thing that we own.  And we do own it.  It’s ours.  Yes, our personality, background, surroundings, genetic makeup and other environmental factors can play a huge role in shaping it, but in the end, it is ours, intensely personal and not necessarily open or willing to change.

I picture it like a bubble.  Some people appear to have a bubble that encompasses the whole planet.  It’s a big bubble.  They will go anywhere, talk to anyone, try anything…for these people, especially in the context of a team, they appear to have never met a stranger.  Little kids hang off of them like they are a jungle gym.  When they sit down, children fight to sit on their lap.  Those who don’t get the coveted lap spot sit as close as possible, touching a sleeve or an arm, jostling for position…and the “Big Bubble” person loves it.  The more the merrier, right?  People with “global bubbles” don’t ever appear to be bothered (or even realize) when things are out of control, but rather see it as an adventure.

The next “level” in the “bubble hierarchy” is the people who have a pretty good sized bubble, but it isn’t a global bubble.  It’s more of a “world as I know it” bubble.  Their community, the world that they know…things that are “controllable”.  They are willing to step out of their comfort zone and go, but the details and experiences need to be pretty manageable.  These people are the ones on teams that make sure that everyone gets on the bus on time.  They are more detail focused.  When it comes to interacting with people, they prefer a more controlled environment.  Rather than having 37 children crawling all over them, they prefer a few children, and preferably the ones who are a little quieter, who want a lap to snuggle on or a hand to hold.  They are the rational ones on the team that make sure things get done and done well.

Then…there are the “bubble-wrapped” people.  This is where I fit in.  My bubble fits me like a second skin.  For the bubble-wrapped person, a missions trip is something akin to a trip to the moon.  The details (and this is just to actually GET there) are overwhelming.  Many won’t even consider it.  Those that do need every detail, every list, every assurance.  Once they get there, assuming that they manage to do so, they are so consumed with the details and the worries about what could go wrong that they often miss the big picture.  They are not going to have mountains of children crawling all over them, or even a few.  You might find them with one child, one very quiet child, sitting next to them.  This whole experience is so far outside their comfort zone that it’s hard to tell if they have even had an experience.  They did, though.  These are the people watchers.  They can read a room, and a situation, like an open book.  The insight that they bring to the table during things like debrief never fails to astound me.

I guess my point is that our “comfort zone” is not an excuse to avoid missions.  Just because we don’t all see, or experience things the same way, doesn’t mean that we didn’t step outside.  For the “Big Bubble” person, stepping outside their comfort zone might mean that instead of being the human jungle gym for 50 children, they spend some time one-on-one with that elderly gentleman that no one noticed over there in the corner.  The “Community Bubble” person might need to let go of the details for a bit and go play soccer with those children.  You’re going to lose–badly–but it will be so good for both of you!  And the “Bubble Wrapped” person needs to stop watching people and actually talk to them.  I know–because I am this person.  And for most of us–I don’t care what kind of bubble you are wrapped in–stepping out of our Comfort Zone begins with stepping out of our front door.  The difference is in how far we step.

How big is your bubble?

“By stepping outside your comfort zone to do something peculiar, you confirm that you can do more than you’ve done. Move out!”
Israelmore Ayivor

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