(Mt. 17:1 ff) Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun. And obviously Peter felt the security of being with Jesus. Then Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. And Peter felt he too was ‘one of boys.‘ He felt familiarity with them. Then Peter said, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, let’s pitch our tents here.” – meaning let’s stay here for good. Peter felt security. But Jesus answered ‘no’ because Peter had fallen into his comfort zone and sooner or later he had to step out of it. What then is this comfort zone?
A comfort zone is a state/condition you find yourself in which things feel familiar to you; and being familiar, you are at ease because you have control of your environment; and because you have control of your environment, you experience low levels of anxiety and stress. Being inside the comfort zone implies familiarity, safety, and security. (It’s like the blanket of Linus!)It keeps you relatively comfortable and calm, and helps you stay free from anxiety and worry to some degree. But remaining inside the comfort zone, you miss out on new experiences, new challenges, new risks. If you do not step out of your comfort zone, then growth will never be possible for you.
But experiencing a little stress and anxiety now and then is a good thing, too. If all you ever do is strive to stay wrapped up in your little cocoon, keeping warm and cozy, you may be missing out on quite a lot---maybe no new experiences, no challenges, and no risks. And looking at the bigger picture of life, if you can’t step out of your comfort zone you may experience difficulty making change or transitioning, growing, transforming; in other words, all those things that define who you are and give your life personal meaning.
The March 3, l992 issue of Houston Chronicle told about an English lady, Joan Abery who died at 70. When she was 35 her fiancé abandoned her at the altar. From that moment on she spent the rest of her life in her garden! She built herself a shelter from trees, twigs and brightly colored umbrellas in the front garden of her home and furnished it with car seats and briefcases. She had left her house in southern England unchanged since the day the wedding should have taken place. She lived and died in a comfort zone designed to protect her from her emotional pain. She had gotten stuck on a mistake and was not able to move beyond it.
Very simply, what we fear most about challenging ourselves is that we may fail and/or get hurt in the process. But truth be known, most of us have the ability to rise to the occasion, overcome hurdles and obstacles, and actually succeed in accomplishing something new and challenging.
Back in 2006 Detlef Federsohn, 23, was released from prison in Vienna, Austria after serving two years for theft. Around an hour later, the police were called because they thought there was a suspected prison break after they saw someone on the roof of the jail. But no one was trying to break out of prison, instead it was just Federsohn who was trying to get back in! So they asked him why he would want to get back in prison. He said, “Life is so much easier on the inside. They feed you, do your washing and let you watch TV, which is a lot more than my mom does for me at home.”
Life begins only at the end of your comfort zone.
Your real life is out there waiting for you. Your real life is the sum total of ALL of your experiences, not just the ones you are comfortable with.
Out of your comfort zone you push yourself to dip into your store of untapped knowledge and resources. You have no idea what you are made of unless and until you venture outside of your own familiar world.
Taking risks are growth experiences. Even if you make mistakes or don’t get it right the first time there’s always these experiences you’ve had to tap into for the future. There really is no such thing as ‘fail’ if you got something out of the experience. Your challenges and experiences are cumulative. And remember, “FAIL” re-framed means “first attempt in learning”.
Leaving your comfort zone helps you to deal with the inevitable unavoidable changes in life. Life transitions are all about change. Each time you transition you move to another level. And these life transitions transform you.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Continuing our gospel story: After Jesus asked Peter and the others to step out of their comfort zone… this means they would now have to leave behind these glorious things they have seen and heard. Then they now have to get down the mountain and face life as it truly is without its glitter and full of its pain and failure. Life for Jesus means going down the mountain and heading straight to Jerusalem where he will suffer and face certain death. And he wants his disciples to follow him.
A little later Jesus told his disciples: “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And the passage continues with: And they were greatly distressed. (Mt. 17:22) It was difficult for the disciples to leave their comfort zone to the point where Peter previously had responded to this by saying: "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" And Jesus scolded Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but on man's." It is only by stepping out of our comfort zone will we be able to see God’s interests and his bigger plan for us. So did Peter step out of his comfort zone…
Interestingly, in the gospel according to Matthew, Peter is mentioned in 24 verses. In 11 of them he is doing or saying the wrong thing. In Mark it is in 11 out of 20 verses, in Luke 7 out of 18 and in John it is 10 out of l9 verses. Here’s a guy who seems to have about a 50% chance of doing the wrong thing. And we know Peter in spite of his faults and failures will go ahead and become the leader of Christ’s church… all because he left his comfort zone.
I’d like to end with the story of the first reading where Abraham was already content with his life and the Lord commands him: "Go forth from the land of your birth, from your father's house to a land that I will show you.
(and) Abram went as the LORD directed him.” He stepped out of his comfort zone and the Lord’s promise was fulfilled. And this promise extends to us if we too will do our part.
"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.
All… everyone shall find blessing in you." (Gen. 12:1-4)
Bingaman, E. (2013). Breaking out of your comfort zone. Pleasant View.
McKinney, M. (2012). Why didn’t the geese fly? Foundations Magazine.