Beyond Your Comfort

images (2)Who do you do life alongside? Who do you reach out to, encourage, invite, meet, involve? Where is your focus? When you’re in a group of people, do you stick with the people you know, or do you look around for people you don’t know? Do you stay in your comfort zone or step outside it? Is your response about you and what you’re accustomed to or what you want, or is your response and focus about reaching out to someone, meeting him/her where they are?

Where we focus is where we’ll go.

If we focus on the situations and the relationships with which we’re most comfortable, we might invest deeply, but we will miss out on the opportunities of new situations and relationships. If we only brush up against people and are never willing to get to know people on a deeper level, investing ourselves in them and letting them invest in us, we’ll miss out on the accountability, challenges, and growth of friendships.

Relationships atrophy without investment.

Without intentional authenticity, confrontation, and commitment, we won’t grow in relationships, which means we won’t grow as God intends. He created us for relationships, and we learn a lot about him as we live out his will among others. He’s not going to keep you in your comfort zone all the time. You’ll have some people who just seem comfortable to get to know. You’ll continue to invest and want to spend more and more time with the person. Sometimes, that’s great, but God sometimes brings that person into your life for a limited season so you get a snapshot of the possibilities of relationships. It doesn’t mean that person will be in your life for an extended time. In fact, if the comfort of the relationship becomes a crutch for you, making you unwilling to reach outside of it to other people, it can quickly become unhealthy. If the ease of the relationship becomes a measurement standard by which all future relationships are compared, it can quickly become unhealthy.

God only has one standard for relationships: Himself.

He determines the when, how, what, and why of the relationship. He guides us to connect or disconnect, but in order to hear and respond to him, we have to remain connected to him. When our focus is on God, we know when we’re supposed to stay and talk to the great friend standing in front of us and when we’re supposed to leave the comfort behind and walk across the room to introduce ourselves to someone new. When our focus is on God, we know when we’re supposed to invest deeply into someone’s life even when it demands a sacrifice of time and effort and when we’re supposed to trust someone to invest in us as we authentically share.

Relationships involve you, but they’re ultimately not focused on you. They’re focused on God and his will for the relationship, and until we fully yield, we won’t have the relationships he wants us to have. He will create a rich myriad of relationships in your life–some will be long-term and some will not, some will take intense effort and some will seem easy, some will be tied to location and circumstances and some will seem to transcend distance and situations. But in order to begin and develop the relationships he wants for you, you have to take your focus off yourself and your assumptions about those around, be willing to step outside your comfort zone, focus on God, and respond to his timing and guidance.

God is preparing you beyond your comfort zone. Take a step of faith.

Tips for Struggling Adult Children

635995551842428548423414045_adultingYesterday, I posted some tips for the parents who might be struggling to parent their adult children well. Today, I want to write specifically for the adult children of those parents…

Adulting isn’t easy. You might miss your mom, the freedom of your childhood, or the dreams you determined but just can’t seem to reach. Or you might be angry that your mom isn’t who you need her to be as you grow into adulthood. She’s not available, doesn’t seem to understand, or can’t seem to accept you as an adult. What can you do?

Step through grief. Life changes. You’ve left many things behind—some that you were too young to remember. You celebrated moving on at times, but other times, it’s been difficult. That’s okay. Let yourself grieve the loss of something or someone, recognize you can’t completely go back, but you can celebrate and embrace what God has in store for the next stage of life.

Focus on what you need, not what you want. This is a hard one no matter how selfless you think you are. You’ll wrestle through assumptions and expectations. Dreams begin to rub against reality. Be as honest as you can be with yourself and others. Instead of choosing to surround yourself with people who affirm whatever you want, choose people who will support and encourage you but also challenge you to continually grow.

Refuse to think you have all the answers. With adulthood comes with responsibility to be a humble, lifelong learner. Admit you don’t know it all, and face the idea that your experiences don’t reflect all of reality. Avoid being too hard on yourself. You’ll have to learn some things the hard way.

Refrain from keeping people where they were, including your parents. Just because your parents responded to you in a certain way in a specific situation or season of your life doesn’t mean that response defines them. Just as you change and grow, so will they. That doesn’t mean they’ll become more like you want them to be, but it also doesn’t mean you understand everything about them.

Be responsible. Blame only digs a hole of insecurities and hurt feelings that are difficult to overcome. Honestly evaluate yourself often in order to learn and grow.

Give God your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. It’s easier said than done. So many things grab at our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and while God wants us to invest in and be passionate about people, they are never to take His place. Let Him lead. You can trust Him, even through the messiness of adulting.

Rebel Against Rebellion

We need to be cooperative. We don’t have to be against everything. We seem to share and shout more what we are against than what we’re for. We circle up with the people we agree with, cheer each other one, then stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our teamies as as we prepare to throw words, threats, and blame on the people we’ve pitted ourselves against.

When our focus becomes too much about what we are against, it begins to define who we are and obscure what we are for. Instead we can put down the destructive words and walk half-court. We don’t have to sacrifice our beliefs to meet halfway to find an foot of common ground that gives a firm foundation for moving forward. We can be cooperative, consistent, and  committed. We can be humbly willing to change. If we’re not, we giving the other side of the argument power over our response. We stay on the side of rebelling against someone instead of knowing where we stand and why.

We might not change anyone else when we fight, but we’ll be changed when we take a deep breath to honestly reflect, question, listen, and explore.

Why Am I So Tired?

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It’s true. It seems to take more energy and effort for me to submit to God, yet I am most exhausted when I don’t.

I’m not saying submission to God is always energizing and never tiresome. However, when I feel most drained, least motivated, and incredibly overwhelmed, it is rarely when I’m close to God. (I almost used the “never” word, because I can’t think of a single time I’ve been close to God and felt overwhelmingly drained or apathetic, but that word is a strong one I very rarely use…just in case.)

Submitting to God isn’t easy. It takes an intentionality that is draining at times. But it’s worth it. It always puts me in a better place. (Despite my unwillingness to use “never” in the earlier paragraph, I’ll gladly use the all-inclusive “always” here!) It’s counter-intuitive. Put forth more effort to get more energized and motivate? Humble myself to grow? Accept someone else’s authority in my life in order to live the life that is best for me?

Yes.

Absolutely.

If you read much of God’s Word, you’ll know Jesus lived a counter-intuitive life and taught others to do the same. What makes sense by the world’s standards might be upside down according to His.

We have to have the right perspective in order to survive and thrive the life that God intends.

I recently read a statistic that suggested most people who survive an avalanche die because of their misguided energy. They try to save themselves by digging out of the snow. The problem is, they don’t know which way to dig, so they might actually dig themselves deeper. There’s a simple survival tip to avoid the dangers of digging in the wrong direction: Spit. Yes, a simple spit test to see which way the spit falls. That gives a clue as to which way to dig.

Expend the right kind and direction of energy and effort today.

 

Noise Can Be an Excellent Reminder

My hotel room wasn’t the quietest one I’d ever had. It was in a nice neighborhood. It wasn’t cheap. But…it was in the medical district of a large city, and I heard emergency sirens throughout the evening and night. When I heard the first few in the afternoon, I wondered how I’d ever get a decent night’s sleep. As I settled in to write that evening, God reminded me that noises and other distractions aren’t always bad. Sometimes, they are reminders. It really didn’t matter if I got a decent night’s sleep; perhaps waking up to a siren and taking a moment to pray for the person who was suffering, his or her family, and the medical personnel–all who were not getting a decent night’s sleep–was the best use of my nighttime.

Sometimes the distractions around us aren’t good ones, but sometimes they are. Before you get annoyed today by an interruption or surprising noise, pause long enough to discern where your focus is supposed to go. Spend time as God intends.

When the Rabbit Loses

Rabbit running in snow.I drove under the speed limit the day after it snowed to avoid any surprising patches on the road. The deep ditches were completely filled from the snow from one snowfall after another. All the cars in the line took their time, but I noticed someone in a rush.

As I glanced to my right, I saw a rabbit straining to run with everything he had. I didn’t see anything chasing him. He wasn’t darting from side to side as rabbits often do. He was focused. Perhaps he was racing the cars.

I chuckled as I thought about the fable of the tortoise and the hare. We all know the hare should have easily beat the tortoise, but he took his speed for granted. He could have easily beat that tortoise, but here was a rabbit running with all his might beside a line of cars, and he was losing ground. Even his best effort wasn’t going to beat the faster cars.

We all have to strain to keep up with something.

Is it the “something” that is so important, or the “somewhere”?

Where are you headed? Do you even know, or are you too focused on the strain of forward motion? You don’t want to lose ground, so you don’t slow down enough to make sure you know where you’re headed.

Maybe that rabbit actually had a purpose, a destination. But maybe he was just running because that’s what everyone around him was doing. If it was a race, he was losing, especially if he didn’t know where he was going or why.

Slow down today and look around. Do you know where you are? Do you know where you’re going? Do you know why, and is it a good reason?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)